Bc I keep getting this question…here ya go!♬ original sound - Stephen Stanley
If you are the parent of a child with physical challenges, you may know that self-feeding can be a struggle. You may also be well aware that when you feed an older child in public, it can attract gawking. And you might know that it is not something people are always willing to do, especially during these germ-cautious days. Back when Max was little, his challenges with feeding himself prevented him from going to many camps—camp directors told me staffers could not help.
Steve Tyler seemingly had no hesitations. He put pieces of pizza right into Eli's mouth, just like a parent would. I am not ready to declare Steve Tyler a saint but this is not something everyone would do. While the collective "Awwwwwww" reaction does nothing to help anyone, perhaps the video will make people more aware of feeding needs, and feel less apprehensive.
There was another person-helps-disabled-person story I read the other week in a large parents group I'm in. A mom was pitching in at her daughter's senior party. Evidently, as this girl and her friends stood around taking photos, they invited a teen with autism to join them. He had come to the party alone. He was overjoyed and later told the mom how grateful he was because, he noted, "I'm not usually included in things." The mother mentioned in her post that she thought what the group of teens did was a good example of inclusivity, which is why she was sharing what happened.
I will sum up the majority of comments: "Tears in my eyes! Beautiful story! Amazing! All the feels! A great reminder! I can't love this enough! Tears!"
Rare was the commenter who saw it the same way I did: Had the group interacted with this boy ever before in high school? That would have been inclusivity. And while it was great they were nice to him in the moment, the fact that he was so overly grateful for those few minutes of being in a group photo showed how low the bar is.
We live in a world where gestures like this are seen as the biggest deal because: 1) Children and teens with disabilities are often not included with their peers and 2) Children and teens with disabilities are seen as people worthy of pity and kindness, not parity.
I worry about the message these stories spread. And OMG, yes, better that this group of high schoolers did include that boy then the opposite. But better that these stories did not bring tears to people's eyes or even be worthy of posts. Better that children and teens with disabilities were just a standard part of school social life. And that is so much easier said than done to be sure. But if you are a parent reading this, you could use these stories as springboards for discussions with your children.
Why was it nice of that group of teens to include that boy with autism?
Why do you think it made that boy feel so happy?
Would it be good if those teens were friendly to that boy at other times? Why?
Why do you think people are sometimes not so friendly to children and teens with disabilities?
How do you think that boy would feel if those teens were always friendly to him?
Image: Screen grab/video by Eeka McLeod