As any of you Instagram followers of mine know, yesterday my family and I spent the day cheering on my niece Anya at the Special Olympics. My niece was born with spina bifida, which in a nutshell is a birth defect that forms early on in pregnancy. My niece uses crutches to walk or uses a wheelchair. Because her disability is physical, it can cause a lot of people to have knee jerk reactions. Some of them are harmless, some of them are offensive. Some of them are accidental and well-meaning. Some of them are just rude. Most of the time, people don't know how to react or what to say. So I talked to my sister and she gave me this list. Here are some things NOT to say to a parent of a child with a disability:
1. I'm sorry. To my sister, the most offensive thing that someone can say to her, either before finding out Anya's disability or after, is hearing sympathy from people. It is not something to be sorry for. Of course there are times when we wish Anya could do things that she just can't, but we wouldn't change a thing about her.
2. What happened? I've actually heard this one A LOT when I am with Anya. Most of the time, I've heard it from children, but I have also had grown adults come up to me and ask what happened to Anya's legs or, even worse, what's wrong with Anya's legs. It is perfectly ok to ask questions and my sister has never minded answering them. But have some tact. Try asking why she uses crutches or a wheelchair instead.
3. She can't do that. There are, of course, some things that Anya can't do. But there are a lot of things that she can do that she doesn't get credit for. My sister and brother in law have done an amazing job of always making Anya try to do things herself if she can do them. It gives her independence and confidence. Don't immediately assume (or worse say) that Anya cannot do something. She just might be able to.
4. Doing things for her. On that same note, don't automatically do things for Anya assuming that she cannot do them. For example, if her crutch falls, she can pick it up. She can get herself dressed. She can get up onto her wheelchair or chairs at school. One thing for sure that she will always do--she will amaze you.
PS--Please take a moment to read my friend Bekey's story on the GoFundMe page that I set up for her and her kids. If you are able, please consider donating. Even a small bit can help.
White Sweater Dress-thrifted
Blue and Red Striped Shirt-Target