We Need to Talk About Disability
At work we run a programme for schools called ‘Play-based learning.’ School groups can book a series of visits during which they take part in exciting creative activities and have some time for free play as well. The aim of the sessions is to help improve children’s confidence and communication, through play.
This morning a group of children with autism and communication difficulties came for their regular session. I spoke to them before they got started to tell them and their teachers about We Forgot The Lot!
The children listened attentively, and immediately had loads of questions. But they weren’t questions about the event – they were about my movements, my noises, and my wheelchair, all of which fascinated them. It was a brilliant and spontaneous question and answer session during which some of the children reflected on their own experiences too.
When they first started asking questions the teachers looked a bit worried, I think because they were nervous I might be upset or offended. But I wasn’t at all. In fact I was pleased and encouraged by the thoughtful discussion we were having. It felt particularly important to be talking about disability and difference with a group of children who themselves had disabilities.
This was the second really interesting conversation I’ve had with children about disability this week. The first was with a thirteen-year-old girl who asked me lots of questions about what my tics had been like when I was a child, and how other people had responded.
Disability’s something that can affect anyone at any time and most people’s lives will be touched by it at some point. I strongly believe that talking and thinking about disability is important for everyone, whether they’re disabled or not. Discussing it is the only way to reduce the fog of fear that surrounds it. This is important because it affects how people feel, what they expect, and how they respond to the challenges they face.
And in my opinion it’s never too soon to get the ball rolling.