all-about-me-683x1024Many times, my daughter, Grace Anna, has been referred to as a “cute, little baby.” She is a nine-year-old girl, not a baby. This kind of statement never goes over quite well. Grace Anna is becoming increasingly aware of how people look at her and assume things about her because she doesn’t fit the “normal” mold.

One such instance in which Grace Anna was treated differently was when a family stared at us from across a room, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed their staring. “Mom, why do they keep looking at us?” Grace Anna questioned me. I felt awful. She was immediately overcome with concern about her looks being criticized.

At first, I thought they might recognize her from social media videos and posts, but that wasn’t the case. “What’s wrong with her?” one family member finally asked loudly enough for both Grace Anna and me to hear.

I paused for a few moments, letting it sink in that they didn’t say hello or introduce themselves. Instead, they verbalized a negatively phrased question about my child. Some people don’t realize that questions like “What’s wrong with her?” leave a child feeling inadequate and ostracized. It hurt my heart to see the nervousness on Grace Anna’s face about what I might say.

“Hi! My name is Angela. This is Grace Anna. My beautiful girl has Conradi Hunermann Syndrome. She is beautiful, smart, and super talented. Yes, she uses a wheelchair, but nothing is ever going to hold her back from what she wants to accomplish. She’s the toughest girl I know,” I kindly explained.

Maybe it was what I said or my facial expressions, but something must have impacted them because they stood there speechless. Grace Anna smiled. I took what could have been a discouraging remark and used it as an opportunity to boost her confidence. I also hope the interaction educated the family on how to be considerate toward someone with a physical abnormality or disability.

How do we stop the culture of pointing out differences and start incorporating the idea that we are all far more alike than we are different? How do we combat the generalization that people are defined by the way they look? We educate and encourage our children to do and be better.

Children are remarkable beings; their minds absorb all kinds of information at incredible speeds. They are often brutally honest and do not hold back from asking about anything and everything that pops into their heads, especially when they see someone who looks different. This may seem like a negative impulse, but it is the perfect opportunity to educate them.

We can teach children to develop an awareness of how their words affect the feelings and lives of others, particularly those with disabilities. Some of the primary lessons to stress to a child are:

  • It is okay to ask questions as long as they are asked respectfully.
  • It takes all kinds of people to make this world a wonderful place.
  • Everyone has something to offer the world no matter what he or she looks like.
  • A person with a physical disability has hopes and dreams.
  • God designed each of us in his image, which makes all of us

As parents and citizens, we have a responsibility to make this world a better place for everyone. It is vital that we learn to appreciate people with disabilities as valuable members of society in order to cultivate a harmonious environment. This movement can start with children. When we prepare our future generations to be empathetic and educated about people with disabilities, we have hope for positive change. And maybe one day in the future, when a child like Grace Anna rolls by in her little wheelchair, a person’s first thought will not be what is wrong with her but what gifts and talents make her unique.

Guest post by Angela Ray Rodgers. Angela is the author of two books: Grace Anna Sings and Who Do You See When You Look at Me. Who Do You See When You Look at Me is available for preorder now.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

Longtime “Jeoparady!” host Alex Tribek, alongside his wife, just recently donated $500,000 to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. The faith-based nonprofit organization is committed to “prevent, reduce and eliminate poverty, hunger, and homelessness.” “Alex and Jean contributed $500,000 to the charity because they believe in helping locally as well as globally,” a representative for […]

Jacob Gaddam’s is making his mark on the bowling world one bowling pin at a time. The 16-year-old picked up bowing at the age of five and has been striking out every since. Jason, who is both legally blind and hearing impaired, has become a household name in the bowling world which, has included some […]

This summer is different than any we’ve ever experienced. We’re separated by physical barriers like masks, screens, glass shields, and at least six feet of space. We’re under some form of quarantine or curfew or both. But these physical barriers don’t change the way that we, as God’s children are one body, united in Christ […]

Flamingos are commonly known for being highly sociable animals and now research confirms that they are intentional with who they spend time with. The five year study done by the University of Exeter followed four different flamingo species and the results they found were pretty shocking. It was found that Flamingos have common social bonds […]