What’s Wrong With That Boy?

wheelchair lifted up
On a recent trip to Target, a little girl who looked to be just shy of 3 years old walked past Isaiah in his wheelchair and said, “Daddy, what’s wrong with that boy?” The dad who looked a bit embarrassed didn’t miss a beat before saying, “There is nothing wrong with him. Let’s go say hello.” His perfect wording gave me the opportunity to tell his daughter a little bit about Isaiah. For his part, all Isaiah wanted to talk about was the dad’s Cardinal’s hat.

My 10 year old daughter who witnessed the exchange was a bit shaken by the whole thing and it gave us a good opportunity to talk some about the questions she gets about why her brother uses a walker and wheelchair and why he doesn’t talk in sentences. As Isaiah gets older and too big for a stroller or grocery cart, we are facing these conversations, questions and stares more and more. I’m trying to take the opportunity when kids ask questions to help them see beyond Isaiah’s chair. Since he cannot carry on a conversation, I try to bring up things I know he likes and can say so I often find myself discussing his love of purple or how much he likes horses. I’m still experimenting with the right way to address questions of why he needs a wheelchair or walker or why he doesn’t talk.

The blatant staring I have found to be a bit more difficult to handle, but luckily at this point Isaiah does not seem to notice. He is often too busy observing what is around him to focus on someone who is focusing their eyes solely on him. I have found that saying “hello” and smiling seems to break the stares. This also sometimes causes staring kids to go ahead and ask the questions that are running through their brains, but hopefully some positive opportunities to see a happy child in a wheelchair who shares some things in common with them might make a difference in their perception.

We aren’t sure what Isaiah understands at this point, but I certainly don’t want him subjected to repeated questions of “What’s wrong with him?” I would like to figure out a quick way to move on from this question. As you can see, I’m still working out how to handle these situations so any advice is welcome. How do you handle questions about your child? Have you found any certain way of answering these questions to be the most helpful? How do you handle the staring eyes of other children or adults?

Image courtesy of Teerapun/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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