On Friday my support worker Will and I went round to the Nature Garden where I work. When we arrived a small group of boys were there, busily making biscuits. They were all about five years old and I hadn’t met any of them before.
As soon as I wheeled in I was greeted with a barrage of curious questions about my wheelchair and my tics. I never mind when children (or adults for that matter) ask inquisitive questions in a friendly way like this.
The boys were anxious to know if I could walk. When I explained that I could but that it was wobbly and I fell down a lot, one exclaimed ‘Oh No!’ I reassured him that it wasn’t a problem because I had wheels instead. The boys wanted to establish exactly how wobbly my walking was and one of them asked ‘Do you walk like this?’ and then demonstrated several different walking styles for me to choose between. We also chatted about my gloves and my biscuits – and I enquired about their biscuits, which smelt delicious.
I enjoyed the conversation, their openness and genuine interest, and the way they listened intently to my answers. I imagine lots of adults would’ve felt quite uncomfortable with this conversation but the children didn’t at all.
One of the great things about talking to kids about Tourettes and disability is that they often ask up-front questions. Then, most importantly, they listen to the answers. As people get older they seem to worry more about saying the wrong thing, or being perceived as nosey, or worst of all, they think they already know all the answers. This makes it much more likely for them to make assumptions and judgements, and that makes it much harder to challenge their preconceptions if they’re wrong.
It’s been a while since I’ve had such a delightful conversation. I’ll definitely make sure I come back to the garden soon – for more discussion and more delicious biscuits.