Right now the Wise Old Owl is in a wheelchair with a broken leg. He is too young to be able to use crutches and needs some way to get around at preschool. It has been interesting to watch the reactions of others when they see him in a wheelchair. Kids always run right up to him and ask what happened. They often want to help him, push the wheelchair for him, etc. There is absolutely no discomfort. He gets lots of loving attention from people everywhere we go. It got me thinking about our comfort level, in general, with people who are disabled. In adults, usually there is some discomfort around an individual who is in a wheelchair or clearly has some sort of developmental disability. I grew up in a school where the special education kids arrived late, stayed out of sight, and left early. So I never learned as a kid how to interact with those who are different, it has come gradually through life experiences. With my kids, I appreciate when people speak to them (instead of me), show respect (instead of pity), and assume they can understand (rather than talking in a sappy voice). I love their inclusion classrooms, where all of the kids are mixed together and taught to get along. There are kids with permanent physical disabilities (unlike my son's temporary wheelchair) and they are part of the class. Young kids don't know any of the labels or medical terms, they just know each kid's name and that is enough. At what point does this acceptance and comfort level go away? Or won't it? I never had this kind of classroom as a child. So is it wishful thinking to hope that the kids who grow up with my kids and the other differently abled kids will just always know them for who they are and not worry about them being different? How wonderful that would be!


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