Friday, May 1, 2009

My child has a right to play—don't shut him out because he's disabled

Today is Blogging Against Disabilism Day. The definition of disabilism is when a person who has disabilities is discriminated against because of their handicap.

Max is young, so we haven't had to deal with this a lot yet. Except for one incident that happened about nine months ago. We took the kids to a birthday party at one of those kiddie gyms. It was incredibly loud there and Max was getting more and more agitated because of his sensory issues. So I took him to another room were there were two other kids (who weren't a part of the party) and a staffer. That room had a bunch of toys, including some trucks Max could ride on. He was having a great time tooling around, and I felt happy that he was finally enjoying himself.

A few minutes later, the owner of the place walked in and told me that Max and I had to get out of the room because those children's parents had paid for them to have babysitting. I explained to her that he has cerebral palsy and sensory issues, and that he wasn't comfortable playing elsewhere. She could have cared less. She didn't offer up any alternatives.

Max and I ended up spending the rest of the party in the hallway, with him running around doing a whole lot of nothing.

I've never forgotten how angry and helpless I felt on that day. Sometimes, I get pushy when it comes to Max, but it seemed reasonable to expect this woman to help him. After all, our friends were paying for a party. Was it discriminatory, per se? Well, I say that by not accommodating him, yes, it was.

Have you ever felt your child was discriminated against because of his or her disability?


  1. That story fired me up. Big time. And it made me sad. Big time. And it gave me a glimpse into what I know is our future. Big bummer.
    We haven't experienced discrimination yet...I think Gavin's too young still. But what I do experience...and hate...are the sympathetic looks. The "you have your hands full" and the "I don't know how you handle it" comments that make me want to vomit. I can never understand why people feel sorry for me. Uh, hello? Have you SEEN how cute Gavin is? Have you NOTICED what a miracle child/superhero he is? But I digress...
    Wait...isn't this MY blog? (uh, sorry)
    p.s....hope you're feeling better, Ellen :-)

  2. Wow. I would be writing the owner of the place a letter-- and if it's a chain, I'd forward the head of the corporation a copy. If I didn't get a prompt reply, I'd forward it to the nearest newspaper. I mean, whether or not the room was "reserved," she certainly could have made some effort to accomodate you- like taking a truck into the hallway. She shouldn't get away with treating Max, or any child with special needs, like that. I'd say spread the word about her insensitivity and hit her where it hurts-- in the wallet.


  3. Ouch. That's a raw nerve. I agree with Connor's Mom--don't let them get away with that.

    I know what you mean, sure. When you have a child who looks, at first glance, like he's just a bit "too old" to be playing where the younger children play, even though what he's doing is appropriate to his abilities, it can be difficult as well. I've been confronted and so has my child, and let me be blunt, I've stepped in and ripped 'em a new one. So far they've at least had the decency to be embarrassed once they realize that Bubba has real limitations.

    You just wish people would stop-look-ask rather than be mean and shoot off their mouths sometimes. It's not rocket science, after all. We don't have too much trouble around town, since everyone knows us, pretty much, it's just when we travel away from our cocoon of understanding that we have problems.

  4. I've only had this problems with some of the other mothers at my daughter's ballet class. We're all stuck in a hallway together during class, and something about the big, open hallway makes Emmett lose his mind. Some of the other moms act as if he's contagious - despite my explaining his issues to them. Another mother won't let her son (who is my son's age) play with Emmett. I asked the community center if there was somewhere else we could wait (and explained why) but they could not have cared less. I still don't know how to handle the situation.

  5. It didn't just FEEL like discrimination, it WAS. Places that service children should meet the needs of children of all abilities. I also think that you should take it up with them - without Max there - and if you get no where, send a letter to the editor of the newspaper, or call them and tell them you have a human interest story for them about how amazing your child is. They LOVE that stuff for their Sunday editions.

    And, yes, sure, I've seen it time and again. Because my kids look "typical" adults frequently discriminate against them when they physically can't do the things their peers can do. I TRY not to let my emotions lead those conversations, but that's not nearly as easy as it seems when someone has actively hurt your child.


  6. I think Pixiemama has some really good proactive advice for you. I would absolutely call them out on it! How dare someone not understand your circumstances. I would not let this one slide particularly because it is a supposedly child and family friendly place. I would let your local advocacy group know...UCP, etc. And maybe even call the Better Business Bureau and file a complaint there.

  7. First and foremost, I'm thinking of you and Max on National Pediatric Stroke Awareness Day today. He's such an incredible kid and a huge inspiration.
    The story of the woman at the kiddie gym really got to me. A little sensitivity goes a long way, but that woman clearly had none.
    Yes, I've felt as if Daniel has been discriminated against in the past. When people find out about his stroke, they sometimes treat him differently. That's why I usually don't tell them until after they've gotten to know him. Every sympathetic yet condescending pat on the head, asking if he would like to be included in activities when all of the other kids are just automatically included, and the false assumptions that people sometimes make about him - it really gets to me. I know people often mean well, but treating Daniel "special" doesn't benefit him in any way.
    Oh, and there was a new teacher at his school who tried to make him sit off to the side during Music And Movement. She didn't even give him a chance to show her that he dances with more enthusiasm than any other kid in his class. What really irks me is that she didn't even know about Daniel's stroke until I mentioned it to her! Boy, did I throw the book at her (figuratively, although I would have been tempted to do it literally if I had the chance!) at her for that one.

  8. When you asked directly if my child had ever been discriminated against, it was strange, but I had difficulty remembering many instances of discrimination. (Maybe my memory is failing.) Yes, I had to educate ignorant people sometimes, but actual discrimination was rare, I would say.

    Sadly, the schools were the main arena for discrimination. Marcus suffered the most, because, with his multiple disabilities (hemiplegia, legally blind, learning delays, and behavioral issues), he didn't fit neatly into any pigeon hole. When he was in kindergarten, I insisted that he be placed in a Montessori program because I felt it fit his learning style. The staff didn't want him there, and they actively tried to railroad him out. They lied, saying things like he needed to be in a class for visually impaired since his vision was deteriorating (it wasn't). They told me he was well accepted by his peers, but I heard from the grandparent of another student at the school that the other kids teased him unmercifully on the playground and the teachers did nothing. And, the worst, they insisted that Marcus had to go up and down the stairs on the right side, like everyone else, even though he couldn't hold the handrail with his right hand due to his hemiplegia!

    It was like that in several programs Marcus was in. I always said that if the schools had spent as much time educating him as they did trying to railroad him out of various classes, he might have learned to read!

  9. My sons are older now. I would either say it honestly gets easier over the years or else you just get toughened up. Sometimes you forget other parents (of typical kids)go thru similiar for different reasons. My friend who is very tall had very tall children and they always got stares or comments for doing or playing at the appropriate place only they were always taller then the other kids! Also I wanted to share once in elementary school there was a bike rodeo after school. Probably around 3rd grade. We still had training wheels so I (I feel bad now) talked mine out of bringing their bikes to participate. The school secretary told me to go right home and bring them back with the bikes. We lived close and did it. No one said a word and MANY of the kids told them they had cool bikes. I honestly don't think any of the kids noticed or cared. It was just my sons and their friends in the rodeo.

  10. This post made me so sad.....It amazes me how people in certain positions choose to act that way when they are the very ones that have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a's really very sad and it breaks my heart to think Max spent his time at the party in the hallway.......and my heart breaks for the way you must have felt that day.....I agree with the others that say you should write a letter or send an email.....maybe that would keep it from happening another time or to another child that just wants to play!

    I hope you're feeling better!

  11. Kate: I hate the sympathy stare, too. I know just what you mean.

    Erin, Felicia, Pixiemama and Shari: Usually I have the world's biggest mouth when it comes to Max, this time, I let it go. I don't think it was a chain sort of gym. Not that I couldn't have followed up, but I don't always have the will to fight every single battle. Just most of them. :)

    Julia: Have you spoken with a bigwig at the community center? I am sure they wouldn't want word to get out that the community center is not so...communal!

    Jo: DOH!!!! How did I not know this was National Pediatric Stroke Awareness Day? Thank you for that important alert. That music teacher makes my blood boil. And, I think it's wise not to tell people about Daniel's stroke till they know him. I try to do the same with Max.

  12. I think that's horrible and YES, she should have accommodated. You were there supervising, it's not like you were trying to get in some free "babysitting".

    I think you should threaten to write a letter to the local paper, etc or something like that in the future... or yell. :-)

    Our school district, which is the best in the state for special needs almost tried to do that for riding the regular bus with Alex's friends and 11 neighbors who ride the bus. The district made the accommodations after I sent an email using some "buzz" words that would have made them think twice. Of course, I was very nice about it, but the words were there...

  13. When I told you about BADD I didn't think you'd take part in it. Not that I'm complaining. I'm just suprised since most people worked on their post for a while before hand, at least I did.

  14. Thanks again for letting me know about BADD, Sarah. I thought it was an important thing to add my voice to. You guys can read Sarah's inspiring post on the topic here:

  15. I hate those moments, they ruin your day. Would it really make a difference if Max stayed in that room with the other children? No not at all.
    With Elizabeth ebing little we have not had too many run ins yet. What really upsets me is when people look at her and see her AFO's or difficulty walking they assume she cannot understand them. I usually sit back and wait because Elizabeth will pipe up with some comment and blow their socks off. A lady came upo to her at the park and held rocks for her to see and said 'Rrrocks, rrocksss, pretty rrrrocks', Elizabeth said 'you're a stranger I don't talk to stagers' Hahaha I laughed and walked away.

  16. This makes me hot under the collar and I'm not sure what I would have done in your position. I suspect I would have gone off on the woman and then cried later when no one was looking. Classic Katy.

  17. I can't recall a specific instance of discrimintaion (maybe i just rather not remember) other than the stupidy of our society. With the ignorance that falls out of some people's mouth, it might as well be discrimination. Let's see, I had someone ask if my son was a retard. Someone said 'well, he looks normal...' I'm like, WTH? He IS normal. The audacity of some people...

  18. Wow what an experience. I can't imagine how people can be so cruel.
    I agree you should can the manager at least, of the place. Life is hard enough without the "help" of strangers.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...