An article written by
Written By: Itrat Zahra:
In today’s time, if the children wake up one morning and find that they have a dangerous animal inside their home, their concern would not be what to do in such situations. Instead they would like to name and pet it if possible. While this may show their boldness, it also shows that they have not be taught how to respond with caution in such dangerous situations.
Itrat Zehra joined Willing Ways Lahore as clinical psychologist. She done M.Sc. in psychology and ADCP. She got training form Ganga Ram Hospital and Services Hospital Lahore, done job at Ahbab Hospital Lahore as psychologist and therapist. She also worked on psychological assessment of constables for Punjab Police and handled project of Excise at DHQ Chiniot. Her areas of expertise are Stress Management and Relaxation therapy.
Most of how we respond in today’s world have been learned by us from here and there. If looked at kids below the age of four, one gets surprised to how they behave when they are with another person with disability. At this age, they children have not been given the belief of Ableism and display understanding that is remarkable. We can learn from this and improve the struggle we have with this as adults.
1. There is no shame attached when it comes to what they do in the toilet.
It is remarkable to find that children are very open when they feel the need of going to the toilet to poop or pee. Recently, a son of my friend was over my house and playing with my son. I was observing both of them playing. My son openness with him was amazing. He let his new friend see and play with his dinosaur collection. While they were playing, my son, suddenly got up and said, ‘I have to go to the bathroom to poop’. And he went without any shame. After he was back, and they resumed their play, his friend also announce that he wanted to go to the toilet to poop. To my surprise my friend’s son even called me to the toilet for help to get his butt wiped.
Those who nurse their loved one with disabilities, and those who are disabled, know this lesson and understand the need of letting go of this shame. However, those who are non-disabled, for them this becomes a mundane and a taboo as they grow old. The shame grows and it becomes fear and disgust for them.
2. There is no shame in asking for help or to turn down help.
In my kids I have also observed that when they need help with tasks (such as reading something from a book, or tying their shoes), they would ask for help. On the other hand, if they do not want help and are being provided, they feel offended and say that they can to it themselves.
People with disabilities do this too. They might ask for help at times and at others would prefer to do things by themselves knowing that if provided help, it will serve as enabling behavior and will be counterproductive.
3. Find the similarities before the differences.
A surprising thing children do is that of finding similarities first. In one of my recent conversations, me and my son looked at a photo of a cartoon character. My son said, ‘Hey, he looks just like me.’ I said, ‘I do not see it the likeness at all.’ He said, ‘Really?, Huh.” I did not
continue the dialogue ahead. I realize that when children watch cartoons, even then they relate to the characters in it. They get to find similarities with them first and the differences later.
4. Helping Aids are important and cool.
As adults, we might think that anyone on a wheelchair is bound, unconsciously suggesting that it is a tool of oppression rather than that of mobility. Children on the other hand do not think of it this way. They might even say that ‘I wish I have a wheelchair.’ This happens because they think of it as a assistive technology. Children do not think of helping aids as negative. They rely on themselves heavily also in their childhood and do not attach any shame with it. However, as adults our thinking gets changed in this matter.
5. The designed setting around us tells us what we can and cannot do.
It is amazing how a child perceives his surroundings. The look on their faces tells all the magic that is happening in their mind when they enter a play area. You can see this magic the moment the enter through the door of such spots such as museums, toy shops and play areas. If looked like this, kids learn what people with disabilities feel when they are in their designed environments. What we can do and cannot do, changes with the surrounding designed environment.
My message from this is that of optimism for the next generation, where they are growing with a keen understanding of the disabilities people face or have. However, it also points to the fact that as we grow up, our paradigm changes and our focus is more on the differences that we have rather than the similarities. We get to learn that being different is shameful and this leads us to social exclusion.
Ableism is a learned process, giving us hope that we can learn somethings that allow us to be in line with the things we learned more easily in our childhood