Hands up – Disabled kids show host draws criticism, praise

February 28, 2009
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My friend Katheryn at RyHigh has an interesting blog post, Hands up, where she talks about Disabled kids show host draws criticism, praise – CNN.com. Here’s a snippet from the CNN post

A children’s show host who was born with one hand is facing criticism from parents over her disability. The BBC is receiving complaints about kids’ show host Cerrie Burnell, who was born with one hand. BBC spokeswoman Katya Mira said the corporation has received at least 25 “official” complaints recently about Cerrie Burnell, new host of two shows on the BBC-run CBeebies television network, which is aimed at children younger than 6. The official complaints do not count the dozens of negative comments lodged in Internet chat rooms, Mira said. In one chat room, a father lamented that Burnell being on the show forced him to have conversations with his child about disabilities.

Kathryn goes on to say:

What I am sure is typical of the latter perspective, a comment on the CNN article said “It’s very hard, as a parent, to have every social issue jammed down the throat of your kids before they even hit first grade. Kids need a certain level of emotion maturity and understanding to be able to MAKE SENSE of the things they see. Otherwise they can’t categorize it properly in their minds.”
I know exactly what they mean. It was so difficult to explain to my young daughter why some people did not use sign language like we did.

Really, jamming a social issue down their throats? As a parent, here is how I see the conversation going.

“MommyDaddy, why does that lady have no hand?”
“Most people have hands but some have one hand and others have no hands.”
“Why?”
“That’s just the way it is.”
“Oh.”

The most interesting comment she makes is:

Sometimes kids will mimic the difference. Maybe they’d tuck their hand up their sleeve to experiment with having one hand. Most of the time, they’ll be satisfied with their little experiment and move on. As a two-handed person, I don’t speak for those with one hand, but I feel confident as a person with a disability to say that no one thinks your kid is a creep or you’re a bad parent for letting your kid do this. At that point, the child isn’t mocking; they are rehearsing in order to understand and empathize. After an ugly parental scolding “stop doing that. Don’t make fun of the handicapped,” or worse, “stop doing that. Do you want people to think you’re handicapped?” they start internalizing the value that it isn’t just different, it’s bad. And then, someday, when they’re looking to insult a classmate on the playground, they won’t call them one of the other ugly slurs based on race, nationality, gender, orientation, religion, or athletic ability, they’ll call them retard, or spaz, or gimp, or dummy.

I wish more parents thought this way.

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