danny fenton, casper high’s resident space nerd, who’s never seen without his jacket and wears the same five shirts and jeans in rotation, always has a water bottle + gum with him, has been hanging out w/ the same two kids since second grade, is sometimes is seen diving around empty corners, and for all anyone knows has never brushed his hair a day in his life
Dab growing up with Evan
How excited they both were
He has bunny slippers!!!!
Dan and Phil being the biggest dads
“He’s doing soft and neat”
Dab is all artistic and Evan is all geeky
THAT THING WHEN KIDS POINT AT YOU YELLING QUESTIONS
WHEN YOU ARE VISIBLY DISABLED
It kinda sucks. It really sucks. I like
kids and I work with kids and I’m totally used to it
and it still sucks. It hurts my feelings.
I didn’t become disabled and get an
instant magical free training in how to teach kids about disability
and diversity. I also didn’t sign up for a delicate unpaid
education-and-outreach job every time I go to the frickin’ grocery
store. (I actually don’t have time for that).
BUT. And this is a big butt.
I am actually learning to love it, this
stupid important unpaid job that I didn’t even get to choose.
I know I know, I have an unfair
advantage because I already thought kids were ridiculous and
hilarious to begin with. And I worked with them before I started
using a wheelchair. But working with kids and having to have the
disability conversation in so many iterations so many times over is
teaching me a whole lot about this whole situation! And it got much
less stressful after I realized this helpful key secret:
kids don’t actually have a problem with
Especially compared to the adults you
encounter who will or won’t ask about it and will or won’t hire you
or date you or what-have-you, so many kids have absolutely no problem with disability. Unless the media // the
adults around them have gotten to their brains before you, this whole
conversation might be alarmingly simple, quick, and painless:
“hey why are you on that?” [“on
that” refers to my wheelchair].
(whenever possible I put down what
I’m doing in order to smile and make eye contact for this. It will
probably be less than 20 seconds).
“oh my wheelchair? Great question!
I have a disability that makes my bones crack easily, so it’s safer
and faster for me to use a wheelchair sometimes. It’s just how I
help my body be at its best!”
“did you have any other questions?”
[I only throw that in on good days]
[kid goes to play]
My advice is to expect Scenario One. All you gotta do to prepare is have a one-sentence explanation of your assistive device / disability that you
feel comfortable with. Kids do not give a shit about your diagnosis, and you don’t need to prove anything to them. All they need from you is a simple,
I * always * explicitly use the word disability
for a few reasons. I used to just casually say “I fractured my leg”
which was also true, but kids learn really early on to feel pity
for someone who has an injury, so they would say things like “ohh I
feel bad for you” or “oh when will you get better” which always made the conversation longer and more uncomfortable. Then I realized
I had a lot of power in shaping their interaction with disability
(and their response to it) in these brief encounters, and also I GET
TO DECIDE HOW I ANSWER! So I revised my answer to frame my injuries
(and my wheels), as a normal, casual part of my life. Feel free to
use my exact wording if it helps you:
“oh my wheelchair? Great question!
I have a disability that (very basic explanation)
so it’s safer and faster for me to use a wheelchair
sometimes. It’s just how I help my body be at its best!”
Okay I studied sociolinguistics in
college so here’s my geeky little break-down:
“oh my wheelchair?” ←
gives a nice nonchalant “oh this old thing” vibe and sends the
message that it’s okay and normal to talk about wheelchairs.
“great question!” ←
teaches the child that disability is not shameful
“I have a disability that
___” ← addresses the taboo right away, deflating any
tension, awkwardness, and curiosity in the rest of the conversation.
Suddenly you have all the power here, since there’s no
“so it’s safer and faster for
me to use a wheelchair” ← emphasizes the positive attributes
of assistive devices. You could also say “it helps me do
everything I want to do” or “my wheels are faster than my feet”
or whatever you want. Again, simplicity works for you in this.
“It’s just how I help my body
be at its best!” ← hopefully kids are already getting some
messaging about taking care of their bodies: brushing their teeth,
eating a snack, sleeping enough, etc. This line should be relatable
to them and also caps the conversation in a helpful way: it’s almost
like saying “this is just how it is” and creates a sense of gentle, positive closure.
My personal opinion on the matter of disclosure is
that the vast majority of kids don’t care at all about the fancy name
of your disability. I don’t emphasize simplicity because I think kids need to be talked down to, I emphasize simplicity because it keeps the conversation clear, casual, and quick. In the adult world, disclosure is practically
demanded of disabled people: even if they don’t ask, everyone wants
to know what, exactly, is “wrong” with you. So my choice in not
naming my specific disability in these conversations with kids is
conscious and political. Not disclosing my diagnosis keeps our
conversation out of the medical sphere (disabled people are so
over-medicalized anyway) and gives us a chance to connect
human-to-human. Some people feel that sharing a diagnosis will raise
“awareness” for their illness or disability but I’m not sure that awareness is what I
need from kids. I don’t need them to be aware that my bod has wonky
collagen production, I need them to know how to interact with me
respectfully. I’m not adamantly against specific diagnosis
disclosure, (again, YOU GET TO CHOOSE what you say in these
situations!) but I also don’t think it’s necessary or important and I
think more often than not, it derails the conversation. Especially if you already didn’t have time
for this to begin with. Guaranteed, a diagnosis
disclosure will add time to this convo.
Often kids will ask what happened
to you, assuming that you’ve had some kind of accident. I have a
congenital disability, so even when I * have * fractured and had an
‘accident’ and that is why I’m wheeling instead of walking, I usually
just casually say: “oh, nothing happened! Same old me. I have a
disability…” and continue my spiel from there.
They will also ask
what’s wrong with you (which is the hardest to stomach) and I
do the same thing: “oh, nothing’s wrong! I just have a
disability…” etc. If I’m just absolutely not in the mood or if a
kid seems weirdly aggressive (which is almost never the case, but it does happen), I’ll cheerfully say “oh nothing’s wrong, but thank you so
much for asking!” and that usually shuts down the conversation.
Lovelies, I know how fucking painful this is. Ugh it sucks so much. But it does get easier and gentler and sometimes kids say really goofy things that you get to laugh about later. This conversation is yours. You get to do as you please with it. Have fun. If you want, for little ones throw in an afterthought: “plus it gives me magical powers. But don’t tell anyone.” Having someone look at you like you could be legitimately fucking magical might make your day.
Hell, you ARE legitimately fucking magical. Go you for reading this and thinking about this and doing you.