Stephanie Rasmon

@stephanie-rasmon | contributor
Stories

Responding to Strangers Who Pity Kids With Disabilities

My son and I went to Chuck E. Cheese a few weekends ago. We don’t go often, and it’s an enormous treat when we do. This particular time, my daughter (who is six years older than my son) was at a sleepover, and I promised Luca we would go to see “Chucks” as Luca calls him while Sissy was away. We usually go as soon as they open the doors. It is easier for my son to maneuver his wheelchair around when 50 other people aren’t in there surrounding him. But I didn’t drop Lillian off until close to 4 p.m. on a Saturday so away we went to a crowded Chuck E. Cheese. Luca is 5, so he doesn’t care nor understand the concept of tickets equal prizes. He wants to play, eat pizza, and play some more. If he gets tickets, awesome; if not, he couldn’t care less. He is playing his heart out. Something different happened this time. We had arrived and were making our way through when a mom and child began staring. No, this isn’t the different part. People stare all the time at Luca. You don’t see children in wheelchairs all the time. I get it. We ignore it and go about our way. However, this duo did not stop staring. Then they chatted for a second about something and began to walk over. I am always ready to answer questions about Luca or listen to their statements or whatever they wish to discuss. I have heard all kinds of things. Instead of questioning Luca’s abilities or telling me some cliche uplifting phrases, they wanted to give Luca a toy ball the child had won. A Pity Ball. The ball was being given to him because he is disabled. They were giving him a toy because they felt sorry for him. I politely declined, but they insisted. So I lied. I told the mother Luca was allergic to the material the ball is made of, and that ended the conversation. I want to point out that I understand it was a thoughtful gesture, and they meant no ill-will, but if I allowed this gift to be given, I would set a precedent. I didn’t want Luca to accept the ball. He shouldn’t receive hand-outs just because he has a disability. I do not want him to think that he is entitled to things because of his disability. He can earn a ball — or anything else he wants to for that matter. No one should feel sorry for him. There are days his disability wins, but we never let it consume us. Luca is an active 5-year-old who participates in adaptive sports, attends kindergarten, and works very hard to accomplish things. He can do anything else another child can do — period.

Thanking a Parent Who Helped Encourage My Son With a Disability

Dear Parent, I don’t know if you remember me or not. The moment our paths crossed was probably so split-second that you never thought twice about it, but it still warms my heart. It was a beautiful, not-so-hot summer day and I loaded the kids up to go to the park. The park we frequent is about 20 minutes away, and it is worth every minute of the drive. You see, this park is the only one in our area that offers wheelchair users like my son the ability to play on almost every piece of equipment. Because my son is 2, the park is not only a play experience but a learning experience as well. You see, for every wheelchair ramp, there are stairs on the other end of the equipment for the non-disabled users. My son Luca comprehends that his wheelchair allows him to get from Point A to Point B, but he has a hard time grasping that a wheelchair cannot go up the stairs. Like any other 2-year-old, he doesn’t like being told he can’t do something the moment he wants it. He pointed to the stairs, and I acknowledged that I understood him, but redirected him to the wheelchair ramp. As he finished his episode of frustration and we slowly made our way to the ramp, we met you and your daughter walking down the ramp. As a bit of encouragement for my son, I pointed in your direction and said “See! That’s where we go to go play.” Without any hesitation, you promptly encouraged my son and “Come on buddy! This way! Keep going!” All I could do was crack a smile. Honestly, I did not think you were going to say anything. I was expecting a simple smile or no acknowledgment at all. But you did the exact opposite. You encouraged my son to use his wheelchair up the ramp. It is not easy as a parent when you have a strong-willed child, and my strong-willed child is on wheels. From one parent to another, I thank you for being another voice on the sidelines cheering my son on his journey. No victory is too small in our world. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Jaren Wicklund.

Being Honest About My Family's Medical Challenges on Social Media

Ever few months, I see the meme circling around on social media implying that people make their lives on Facebook look spectacular, as if nothing but a rainbow hangs over them. And I agree. Most of the time on Facebook, I see people share happy moments or uplifting quotes only. So I am sure some people may be put off when I share my children’s struggles, hospital stays, or life-changing appointments. Don’t get me wrong – I share our accomplishments, outings, and heartfelt moments just as equally as our challenges. I share the good times, the gray areas, and the darker sides. I share these things because this is who we are. I can’t, nor will I, sugarcoat our lives because that is not our reality. I can’t apologize for using Facebook for its purpose of connecting to loved ones, friends, and bringing strangers together. I suppose I could not share our challenges and only share uplifting moments, but then I would be excluding half of our life. I don’t mean to make anyone feel uncomfortable when they scroll through their news feeds. It’s not as if I am sharing the fresh surgery incisions I take pictures of for something to reference if needed. The reality is, my son and daughter’s medical conditions are what make our lives unique and perfect in our way – and there is no sugarcoating that fact. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .