I read an article the other day that really changed my perspective on inclusion, and how the attitude that I had was wrong.
It’s an article by Tanya Marlow, entitled “Don’t tell your child not to stare at disabled people, we are already invisible enough”. In it, she describes how parents should use the opportunities presented by a child’s interest to have an open conversation about difficulties some people may have. Instead of saying “Don’t stare, it’s rude”, she says that it’s the perfect opportunity to point out that not everyone is the same, but they are still able to access society. Telling children not to stare is completely counter-productive in terms of promoting inclusion, as it conditions children to not look at people that are a part of our society. It conditions children that people with special needs should not be looked out because they “don’t count”.
This is something that I am ashamed to have contributed to. As a child, I used to get angry that other children used to stare at my older sister, so much so I would glare back. Petty, I know, but I was around 8 and thought it was the best way to deal with it. In my mind, other children were treating her like a zoo animal to be gawped at, and it just frustrated me. I stopped staring when I grew up, quite frankly because I was used to it, but I’ve realised now that what I was doing was showing other children that she shouldn’t be looked at.
This article brought a fresh light to me in to how inclusion should be seen and dealt with. Inclusion is having an open conversation. Inclusion is about asking questions as you would to anyone. Inclusion is about being honest and admitting you don’t know enough to treat someone fully inclusively. Staring at someone because you’re annoyed they’re staring at your sibling is not inclusion. It’s completely hypocritical. By staring at someone else, you’re excluding them from a walk of life that they need to know about.
So, Tanya Marlow, this is post dedicated to you, and the fact that you have shed #ADisabilityPositive light on the fact that children are going to stare, and this is the perfect time to encourage inclusion. Children aren’t warped by the world yet, so they should be brought up to know who they share society with. These are the people who will pave the way for inclusion in the future, so let’s use their curiosity to society’s advantage.
P.S. Give it a read, she’s a clever lady. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/11/dont-tell-your-child-not-to-stare-at-disabled-people-we-are-already-invisible-enough