Person with a disability in a wheelchair with colored balloons at the beach
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Talking About Disability

I remember this time, back when Penny was really little, when we were at a birthday party together and another mom was there with her child who also had a disability. Her child didn’t speak, and I felt totally incapable of asking questions about her child. 

Back then, even with my own child with Down syndrome, I only had a medical framework to use. The best thing I could think of was, “What is your child’s diagnosis?” but I didn’t even ask that because it felt so cold and clinical. I honestly think we talked about food and the weather rather than these two beautiful children who were right in front of us. 

Later, I realized that, as our daughters enjoyed the party, I could have said, “Tell me a little bit about your daughter.” I could have asked, “What do you love about your daughter?” or  “What does your daughter love?” 

So for anyone who is wondering how to talk with a parent of a child with a disability, or how to talk with children and adults with disabilities, just remember that all humans can communicate about who they are and what they love.

(In this situation, the girls were too young to respond to these types of questions, so I was talking with this child’s mom. But I’ve learned through the years that when someone is non-verbal, they still can communicate with eye contact and they still can receive speech as a way to connect and communicate even if the verbal part isn’t reciprocal.)

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