Lesson Length : 30 -40 minutes
The Weight of Persistent Judgment
During our focus groups with families of children with disabilities, parents told us the biggest barrier to enjoying parks and playgrounds is the judgment of other parents and the intolerance, staring, ignoring, and excluding of children with disabilities.
Most families go to the park to relax. They know their child will be able to play freely, let off steam, and may even make a new friend. For children with disabilities, their siblings and parents, a trip to the park can be anything but relaxing, easy, and fun. The kids may face play equipment that they cannot enjoy. Parents may worry about busy streets and no fences to keep their “runner” inside the park. Parents may have difficulty managing siblings with different play styles and needs. Siblings may worry about the other kids’ reactions to their brother or sister. They may themselves feel conflicted about wanting to both protect them and play themselves.
All of these challenges may be manageable, but when the family feels socially isolated, judged, or ignored it can all become too much. They are excluded from activities and the playing field is anything but level. Parents stated how exhausting this steady exposure to stigma is and how tired they are of “fighting the fight.”
“I usually tell other kids that he communicates differently. Kids are usually fine with that. We were at a park playing basketball, recently, and another kid asked about the sounds JP was making. I said that he communicates differently and is still learning to talk. The kid said, “Well, he needs to grow up!” Then the kid’s parent called him over and made him play in a different area. It was really sad.”
“I’d rather have someone say something stupid than not say something at all. It’s another thing to be intentionally rude, but asking a question is better than nothing. Maybe they’re not using the right words. They might ask ‘Is your kid retarded?’ or might use the wrong term or might assign a diagnosis. But I’d rather they try to connect. I hear ‘Oh, my dad used to work with retarded people.’ I’m like, okay, now I can work with that.”
“I wish people would be less judgmental and more compassionate.
” I can’t think of any one horrible experience that we’ve had taking Gabe out. It’s more a little bit all the time.”
“Don’t judge my child or me.”
“Question your assumptions about me or my child. Take the time to try to figure her out. Don’t make snap judgments.”
Pause and Reflect: