Ms. Charlene Bullard writes a blog called Faith to Raise Nate. We have been discussing inappropriate comments made by people in regards to our family members with special needs. Charlene’s son Nate is deaf/blind with Autism and of course most of you have met my brother Stephen. The catalyst for her posts was my comment to her about people asking me if my brother Stephen is like the character in the Rain Man movie. Please go to the above links for more information. The objective of Charlene’s posts is to educate people to not make assumptions about folks with special needs.
Disabled does not mean that person is living a half-life or needs or wants your pity.
Below is my comment to Charlene regarding Part Two of the Topic with some edits I made for this post.
This post is on point!! Excellent words of wisdom. As I read your advice I thought of Helen Keller who was deaf/blind and went on to live an extraordinary life.
In my experience I can understand when children ask questions because they are truly curious and want to understand. As for adults they are just plain rude and choose to be that way.
I recall an incident years ago in the museum galleries when a dwarf lady was viewing a painting and a little girl saw her. The little girl knew that the dwarf woman was not a child but obviously she was puzzled as to why and how an adult could be that short. So naturally she went over to the dwarf lady and just stared at her. You know when eyes are on you. So the dwarf woman turned around and at that point the little girl ran off. The Dwarf woman just smiled. She probably goes through this every day.
Seeing that reminded me of when I was 11 and my Dad and Aunt took us on a family vacation on Montreal, Canada back in 1970. During our vacation we met a dwarf woman who was giving tours of her parents house. Her parents were both dwarfs and the house was built to scale meaning everything was lowered to their level. Having never seen or met a dwarf before I desperately wanted to ask her why she was so short however my Dad gave me that look. The look that silently said “You’d better not say anything to embarrass me or be rude. I held my tongue. Just like back in those days dwarfs were called midgets which is a derogatory term. Later on as an adult I learned that most dwarfs or Little People have a condition called Hypochondroplasia a form of short-limbed dwarfism.
On the tour I did learn that the dwarf lady was married to a normal sized man. As for their children I never found out that information but I was taught as a child not to make fun of people and not to ask rude questions that are none of your business in the first place. After all growing up I did not like it when the other kids in the neighborhood made fun of my brother Stephen.
Several years ago the Little People of America had a convention in New York City. Museums were on their itinerary and I saw many Little People enjoying the artwork at my museum workplace.
When I was a child the other school kids used to make fun of me calling me the “Black Twiggy.” As you can see from my childhood and young adult photos I was as thin as a rail. It was not until my 40s that I began to gain some much needed weight. Recently since my brother Stephen needed a food supplement I started back drinking Ensure. Tastes good and helps us not only maintain but to gain weight. Like Twiggy I too wanted to be a model but unlike her my dream of being a model did not come true except for mugging for the camera on this blog!!
Some of my photos Past & Present
Me and an Army Friend
Me and the Borg
2002 MMC Grad
2002 MMC Graduate
Me and Dad
Funny 1970 Montreal, Canada Family Vacation Story
Funny story regarding the 1970 Summer Montreal Trip with my Dad, Aunt Helen and brother Stephen. We went visit a home designed for dwarfs. Now in those days they were called midgets but the correct term in dwarf. The Lady Dwarf in the photo was born to Dwarf Parents. Her parents had constructed a house where everything was scaled down to their size. For me I was about 11 at the time it was like being a in Doll house. Of course being curious I wanted to know why she was so small. I had never seen a dwarf up until that time and I could not understand why an adult would be so little!! My Dad sensed that I was about to ask an inappropriate question so he silenced me with a Look!! Back then you did not ask about why certain people looked different or what made them that way. It was considered bad manners.
Now A Days is different. One day years ago a dwarf lady was looking at one of the paintings in my gallery. There was a little girl about 3 or 4 years of age who spotted her and like me back then was surprised to see such a small adult. Believe me kids automatically know that dwarfs are not children. Any way kids being kids she hopped right over to stare at the dwarf lady who had her back to the child. The dwarf woman feeling eyes on her turned around and smiled. No words were exchanged. The little girl went back to her stroller and the dwarf woman went back to enjoying the paintings. I suppose the Dwarf Lady was used to kids staring at her and that’s why she smiled.
Being taught good manners and to keep my mouth shut has helped me in my current job as a museum security guard. I see all types of people with disabilities and even though I want to know what happened I do not ask. Actually we are not allowed to say anything evenly remotely rude or inappropriate. For example Monday a young woman with no arms or legs was in my gallery. Naturally seeing someone with such an extreme disability can catch you off guard but I treat them as I treat any other visitor with a smile and assistance if needed.