I run into all types of people in my travels. Every once in a while, I’ll have a chance meeting with another person. Sometimes, I meet other children or families who take of someone who has a special need, other times, people are just saying hi when they walk past you in the street. I talk to strangers all the time. If people want to smile and say hi, what’s wrong with that? If someone wants to shake my hand, why not?
Today I was in a women’s washroom, waiting my turn in line. About a minute goes by and I feel a small hand grab mine. I thought it was my niece who I was at the zoo with. I turned around to find it was a young girl, about six. Her mom was holding her other hand. I turned around and said “hello, how are you?” Her mom then looked at me and without missing a beat, said “sorry, she’s Autistic.”
I almost gasped I was so surprised she was sharing this information with me. I looked at mom and told her it didn’t bother me. “Also, you don’t have to share that with me. You shouldn’t feel obligated to apologize for your child.”
This isn’t the first time somebody, a stranger, has shared their child’s disability with me. Why do I need to know unless I’m directly caring for your child. When people ask me what my client has, I say something like this…”I can’t tell you because it’s confidential.” I really want to say, “I can’t tell you, because its none of your business.” If I do share someone’s disability with you, what are you going to do with that information anyway?
Sometimes people have a family member or a child and are just relating to you. There is a community of support workers also, so, they want to relate too, or inquire for their own reasons. My favorite are the people that guess the disability in their heads, you tell them and they say”that’s what I thought it was.” As if they have won a trivia game. I didn’t know it was w guessing game. What do I say to that ‘good job, you were right!’
My point is, you don’t always have to share personal things with me and I have a right not to share them with you. It’s great if you want to educate yourself on different disabilities, but, please use google. And, just because you read something, don’t assume that every person with that disability has all those symptoms or looks that way doesn’t understand.
Treat people the way you want to be treated. Show compassion to those who need it. Read body language. Say things in your head, before saying them out loud. Treat people age appropriately. And last but not least, know that people aren’t their disability, they have a disability.