I don't know why we have to keep on fighting this battle. It doesn't seem fair or right for people to pin judgement on us, just because of our son.
This is what we face every day. We have a son, aged 9, who is in a wheelchair because of severe cerebral palsy. He cannot walk or talk; he needs help in most areas of his life. He doesn't really understand the significance of his disability and how it impacts not only him, but those who are around him, most of all, us, his parents.
Our son is named Shea Thomas. He is a beautiful little guy with a shock of wooly, wavy dark brown hair, big blue eyes, and a smile that could light up the moon. He smiles just about all of the time and nothing really bothers him.
That is what we see when we look at him; however, when others see our son, they notice several things: the bent, palsied limbs that resemble broken sticks. The drooly smile. And perhaps, most of all, the wheelchair with straps to hold him in a sitting position (he cannot sit unassisted).
They don't see the potential that Shea has. Even with not being able to speak, he is capable of making his wants/needs known (thanks, in part, to his eyes or his expressions, which are the window to his voice or his soul); he is a quick learner, and can recognize what is going on around him.
Shea loves people; we see that every time he is out in the public eye. His whole face lights up, and he laughs in his special way: to him, people signify potential friendships; he is more than willing to give a go at trying to make new friends.
Sometimes he's successful; however, more often than not, he fails. And it's because Shea's physical imperfections make people uncomfortable. They don't know how to talk to him; they figure that since his body doesn't work, then his brain mustn't work right either. They think he is incapable of learning.
They can't be more wrong.
Shea has learned more these past few years than most people do in an entire lifetime; he's proven that he isn't as disabled as people think he is.
Sometimes even the able-bodied people we encounter are more disabled than our son, even though they might not use wheelchairs or crutches or have a seeing-eye dog or communicate via sign language.
Shea loves to play gin rummy via the computer or tell stories via his special communications device. He also loves to be held, cuddled, be floated around in the pool, and go feed the ducks at the pond close by at the park near our home. In addition, he loves Cajun music: every time he hears it he about dances right out of his wheelchair, and he squeals excitedly.
There are a lot of wonderful qualities about Shea, as you can plainly see. He is our world, our joy, our everything. We would die for him, that's how much we love him.
People, however, make it hard. They see us parking in the handicapped parking space; right away, the questions start. They see us, two able-bodied parents, and they wonder if we are taking advantage of the situation or are just too lazy to walk. Then they see our wheelchair-bound son; they are the ones who end up looking foolish.
You would think by now they'd be used to it. Or we would. Nope. We still get stared at or have questions/accusations flung at us like small stones. I don't know why people won't stop making assumptions about us or about Shea; he is a little boy with a disability, not a disabled little boy.
He is not his handicap. He can do many things in his own way, and if people can't look beyond his problems, then we don't want to have anything to do with them.
We have been fighting this fight for nine years, since Shea was born, and we are sick and tired of it. Shea is a child first; get over the fact that he is disabled! He just may end up surprising you if you will only give him the opportunity to do so!