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Children of a lesser God???

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by sujathaumakanth, Jun 4, 2010.

  1. sujathaumakanth

    sujathaumakanth Bronze IL'ite

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    “The message I’ll share…is that inclusion is extremely important for kids with and without disabilities.”
    - Clay Aiken


    [JUSTIFY]A week ago, one of my friends had a facebook status about children with special needs and how people need to understand and accept them. Her status triggered a memory within me and even if it was not totally related to her message, it still showed how people, even someone like me who is quite passionate about such causes can easily make mistakes.

    During one of my school runs when I was still living in Brisbane, I noticed this little kid stumble and fall in front of me. Despite my immediate urge to pick him up and comfort him, I had to follow the norms of the society that I was living in and approached the little kid and asked him if he needed any help. He shrank back from me and replied in a very curt little tone “No thanks”. I was not put off by his behaviour, indeed I was amazed that his parents had instilled in him a strong awareness of strangers – something that I never managed to do with both of my kids. I noticed his mother standing a few yards away – she neither called out to him, nor reached out to him when he stumbled. She was standing with a fixed smile on her face – as I walked past her, I looked at her and told her quite appreciatively that her son was indeed doing great with strangers. She merely looked away – and now that I found quite strange and quite snubbed by her action as most mothers with kids going to the same school share an air of comraderie. Most of us even if we have not met before would have a smile or a wave to share when we look directly into people’s faces. I hastily shrugged away the incident, especially not allowing the sour aftertaste spoil the day for me.

    Two days later, I spotted the mother at the school office and then I quickly realised why she ignored me the other day. She was in fact miming to the admin lady. She was mute and what I mistook for her snobbery was merely her armour in shielding her limitation from strangers. She probably did not want attention in the form of condescending pity or embarassed politeness when people came to know of her affliction. For a minute, I stood there in deep regret and was indeed kicking myself for hastily jumping to conclusions about people, especially strangers I hardly know.

    Around the same time, I watched a movie from the 80′s “Children of a lesser God” – quite a touching tale about the relationship between a speech teacher and a hearing impaired ex-pupil of the school (had to grudgingly admit William Hurt into the ranks of Liam Neeson, atleast in my opinion). It was not the movie with its stellar cast or scintillating performances that captured my attention, nor the fact that the leading lady (the youngest female Academy winner, think the record still holds good) was deaf in real life as well or this movie had strong echoes of the tamil movie “Mozhie” but it was indeed the title that got me thinking.

    “Children of a lesser God” – perhaps this is indeed how the society treats people with special needs. But who are the society? Is it not people just like you and me and are we guilty of this accusation? Perhaps we are……maybe as parents, have we not cringed visibly when we come across mentally handicapped children worried that something might trigger off the excitement in these kids causing them to act agitatedly and disturb our own kids? In all honesty, despite our sympathies and true feelings towards such kids and adults, do we not prefer to overlook them so we feel less guilty – perhaps similar to survivor syndrome for better comparison. Even in countries where governments and communities do their best to cater for such kids and adults, there is indeed a stigma in the society, preconceived notions when it comes to them. They have somehow unwittingly been relegated to the position of second class citizens in any society.

    Having said this, I have to admit I once confused a blind person in the name of offering help and stuffed up his internal sense of radar. Now I think twice before helping (or unwittingly hindering) people in such situations. So is it really our lack of concern for such people – or truly our lack of awareness in learning how to behave towards them or treat them? Could our own limitations towards understanding what is required, our own fears of invoking anxiety or perhaps further difficulties in such people be misconstrued as indifference or unacceptance. I am perhaps playing the devil’s advocate here – but there is definitely another side to the coin that offers compelling evidence which cannot be overlooked.

    I see in small communities, especially like the ones I live, that several programmes are in place to incorporate such kids and adults with special needs into the society. Perhaps all we need to do is shed our inhibitions and fears and accept them as they are meant to be – equals in our own eyes and that of His.[/JUSTIFY]
     
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  2. Pankajini

    Pankajini Senior IL'ite

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    Sujatha I can see a very compassionate and equally pragmatic you in this article.

    It’s really very confusing how to approach “Special children” as we are ignorant about their feelings. The incidence you have narrated shows two sides of a coin that most of us are unaware (truly I would have also felt the way you did). In India approach for such special children are different compared to other countries (particularly USA, as I haven’t been to anywhere else). We tend to express our concern for kids by helping them but perhaps this way doesn’t equally motivates special kids. Possibly they feel strong and confident by doing things independently and someone’s help make them aware about their disabilities.

    However on our part, we are also correct in expressing our concern by offering a helping hand. Therefore I am in agreement that we should particularly be careful with special kids bearing in mind to avoid doing anything that may discourage them. It’s individual’s responsibility to educate ourselves with ways to make special children feel a part of our society.

    Your have expressed your point coherently and precisely and backing your idea with experiences beautifully described.:cheers :thumbsup
     
  3. sujathaumakanth

    sujathaumakanth Bronze IL'ite

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    Ha ha, I guess I am a true Gemini - hence I am my own devil's advocate :)) Well, every coin has two sides and I prefer to see both sides before I pass out any judgement. Thanks so much for your feedback, it is not the kind of topic that evokes a lot of response from readers :)

    If you do like watching Hollywood movies, try to catch the one I mentioned - you will probably like it :)

    Looking forward to hearing more from you !!!

    Hugs,
    Sujatha
     
  4. ganges

    ganges Gold IL'ite

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    dear friend

    very beautiful write up. thank god that you met the lady again and understood why she didnt react to you before. I was working in a school for special children. There I understood gradually that none of the children want anybodys sympathy or attention. They didnt even allow us to help them while climbing into the school bus or anything else. first few days I was so disturbed and automatically learnt to look at them as the other normal children. I simply loved your write up.

    thank you dear.


    ganges
     
  5. Arunarc

    Arunarc Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Hi Sujatha
    Very well written about these special people not only kids even the adult.
    One way you can help such people in India becoz they are ready to accept the help from you in a positive way but not in Australia.
    One way I feel it is good how strong they make these special people not to be dependent on any one or accept help from others.
    I too have come accross some of such incidents. Once my kid had selelction matches for state level tennis. I too accompained him and on another court I could see disabled people playing tennis so well i was so inspired by that instead of watching my son playing i was busy watching them playing, They were playing better then normal people, sitting on the wheel chair. suddenly while playing the tennis ball came towards my legs so I just happened to go and pick it up and give it those players. but that guy suddenly shouted lady please do not pick it up. I just stood there and told him sorry he came all the way and did pick up himself.
    These people don't like anyone showing pity on them.
     
  6. radsahana

    radsahana Silver IL'ite

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    hi sujatha

    As usual you have evoked a thinking in all of us with ur post.

    I think special needs children or rather all people with special needs, never like to have pity. What we do as concern, they may take it as pity.

    I have come across some kid like that, but rather than showing concern, i will chat very naturally with them, which make them more comfortable.

    But yes sometime we dont know how to react, and in the process we tend to hurt them.
     
  7. Padmini

    Padmini IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sujatha,
    A thought provoking post. In a wonderful and vivid manner you have explained the conditions of disabled persons. As you had misunderstood that lady, I also did it once. The question in me is why it had happened is it due to ignorance or indifference I am still wondering.
    If you see someone with a disability, the simplest gestures mean a lot. Be courteous to them, hold a door open for them, give them room to maneuver, and please do not park in a handicap parking space. One thing that will not cost you anything, but will reward you immensely is to give them a smile and a simple hello. We need to treat people that have disabilities with respect and dignity, they didn't chose to be that way. This quote is an unfortunate thought that is felt by some disabled people who get stared at when they are out. "The worst thing you can do is stare at us. Children will stare out of curiosity, adults stare out of ignorance.When you meet someone with a disability, the most important thing to do is to meet the person not the disability. Many people pull away from any one with a disability. Instead, get to know these people they have a lot to offer. If we look past their disability, you might find terrific, amusing, sensitives, intelligent people. Some of the most intelligent and prominent people have been in wheelchairs. Franklin D. Roosevelt who had polio was in a wheelchair during his entire presidency, he was the only president to be elected 4 times. There are so many talented, successful, brilliant people who happen to be disabled. Some people are born with a disability, others develop them some time in their life.Treating them different makes them discouraged. Even though they have a disabilities, they still are very smart people and notice when they are being treated differently. Sorry for the long one.
    with love
    pad
     
  8. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    I feel happy to have come across this post. I was impressed not only by the depth of your observations, but also by the style of your writing. Quite obviously, you will enrich this community over the months/years to come.

    I don't think you played the devil's advocate at all. Each and every example you provided was full of wisdom and understanding. In particular, connecting your ideas to the movie Children of a Lesser God was the right way to prove your point. If you recall, the movie ends with the "normal" person moving into the "abnormal" person's world of silence, rather than the other way around. It is a movie with a happy ending, only the concept of happiness is totally unconventional.

    One hears of deaf people being "treated" to start hearing. But Children of a Lesser God showed the need for people with normal hearing abilities to understand the need to "teach" themselves to dispense with their abilities in order to seek admission into the other world, a world which "normal" people are used to treating with condescension.

    More generally, some people at least may wish to be "not helped" and be independent. This was the case with the little child in your post. I had a similar experience in the middle of a severe winter in Sapporo. The roads were covered with sleet and an oldish gentleman slipped, falling flat on his back and hurting his head pretty badly. I was aghast that not a single passerby came forward to offer him a helping hand. And I, much like you, went to him and asked him in polite Japanese if I could be of any help. He refuesed quite gruffly I must admit.

    It is a matter of cultural difference I suppose. Most Indians probably don't even understand that it is not a sign of arrogance to refuse help. One could depend as much as possible on oneself, thereby leaving the precious resources of society to be used for bigger causes. Besides, offering unsolicited help could amount to invading a person's privacy.

    Coming back to the movie, I remember once again the girl's outburst when she finally refused to walk out of her world.

    A very well-written post.
     
  9. knot2share

    knot2share Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Suja

    Lovely thought provoking post. I don't have much to say here as everybody who has replied to this post have expressed it all. It surely takes a while to know how to react where, in this country. Here everybody is given an opportunity to lead their lives like everybody else. People with special needs surely do not like to be shown sympathy. They want to be seen like any other "normal" person.

    I personally feel that awareness/education on how to handle such situation is possibly the most important factor that will help us shed our inhibitions and fear towards them and allow us to embrace them and see them as equal. Our way of showing genuine concern sometimes leads us to trouble in places outside India. It is just the way how things are done differently everywhere. To feel independant makes one feel strong and here the country provides all facilities for them to be able to achieve that. It is so encouraging to see this.

    The stigma that you talk of, is still there back home. Just take this example. How often does one see a visually challenged or hearing impaired old adult go out to have a nice time with friends at a zoo or even enjoy a play at a theatre, back home? Physically challenged people have these automated motor scooters available for them that can be operated with minimal difficulty on the roads. It helps them to travel from one place to the other on their own. The roads have ramps on either sides to enable them to cross. The buildings and shops, public transport, cinema halls, sporting venues, museums etc every public area has allowance infrastructure wise to cater their needs, just so that they do not feel left out. If I am right, at the Melbourne Art Centre, they have special seating area of such audience so that they can sit and enjoy a play like anybody else. I remember once when I had been to the Melbourne Zoo, there were a group of elderly ladies who were all visually challenged and had come along with two young friends (maybe volunteers) to have a good time at the zoo. It was such a beautiful sight to watch them all cracking jokes and laughing with a cup of tea in their hands.

    I do not know how often we see this back home. The point is that we should learn from all these. Many times I have tried to avoid a situation on purpose for the fear of not knowing what to do under such circumstances. Its not something that I am proud of. We need the awareness to help us have an open heart. It is easy to say but not easy to practice and certainly not impossible. Education helps to see them as equals.
     
  10. sujathaumakanth

    sujathaumakanth Bronze IL'ite

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    Thanks dear Ganges !!! I am glad you liked the post. Above all, thanks for letting me know your own experiences, it is not everyone who has the heart to understand and above all work for such kids. I am glad I have met one such gracious person in you.

    Have a lovely day,
    Sujatha
     

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