When a Friend Asked What to Say When Her Son Said, 'What's Wrong With Her?'

Yesterday I got a text from one of my best friends explaining she had been out to dinner with her husband and 5-year-old. While waiting for their table, they encountered a little girl with Down syndrome around the same age as her son. Her son and the girl played together for the time they were waiting, and when their table was ready, the other family walked away and her son asked “What’s wrong with her?” He did not say it in an ugly way, he was just curious and asking in the only way his 5-year-old brain knew how to. No one got upset or embarrassed, but she found herself at a loss for words and unable to explain Down syndrome in an age appropriate way.

She asked me, “How do I explain where everyone is on the same page and no one is offended?” That’s a tough question and I found myself wondering the same thing. But I did have a response to her son’s question, so I said, “Explain to him that nothing is ‘wrong’ with her, she is just as God intended her to be.”

I understand disability is something foreign to anyone who hasn’t experienced it first hand or at least knows someone who has. I knew nothing about Down syndrome until I found out Asher would be born with it. Even now I don’t know everything, I learn something new every day. I still find myself unsure of how to navigate this world and depend on other parents, teachers and therapists to help me stay on course.

I can’t speak for all parents of kids with disabilities, but I know most of us just want for our kids to be accepted. We want other kids to look at them and see another kid, not their diagnosis.

We want you to teach your typical child that different doesn’t equal “wrong.” That our differences should be embraced and celebrated, not ignored or shunned. Curiosity is a natural part of childhood, so encourage them to ask questions in a respectful way and to introduce themselves to the person they are curious about.

I believe this applies to all kids, regardless of ability, race or religion. I firmly believe that we, as parents, have the power to change the world through our kids. By raising our kids to love, respect, and accept everyone — by discouraging ignorance and fear of the unknown and different — we can change our reality and that of future generations.

Realize the power you hold as a parent and use that power responsibly, for the greater good. Be awesome to one another and most importantly, be the change you wish to see in the world. Allow your children to see this in you and they will follow your lead.

Follow this journey at Asher’s Army.

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Thinkstock image by DenKuvaiev

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