This Is What A Child With A Disability Looks Like, Right? Wrong.

Take a good look at this child, my son, Max. He’s walking his new wooden pet duck on a day trip our family took to Lewes Ferry, Delaware. Can you guess what his disability is?

Now look at this cutie, Zaiden, hanging with a truck o’ pumpkins back in October. Can you guess what his disability is?

Of course you can’t: It’s not possible to tell what a person’s disability is just by looking. As it turns out, both boys have cerebral palsy. But even that still doesn’t tell you much about their special needs. Some kids with cerebral palsy walk; some don’t. Some kids with cerebral palsy are cognitively impaired; some aren’t. Some kids with cerebral palsy have trouble using all their limbs; some have trouble using just one hand or one leg.

Looks don’t tell you anything. Labels don’t tell you anything. And yet, that’s something many people just don’t understand when it comes to those with disabilities.

Zaiden is the center of a storm that’s been brewing since late December when his mom, Amber, wheeled him into a gift store called Ellie’s Choice in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. According to Amber, she was asked by Ellie to leave Zaiden in the front of the store as she shopped; the store does not allow strollers since the aisles are narrow. Amber says she informed Ellie that the stroller was used as a wheelchair. “If I wanted to shop, I would have had to leave my 2.5 year old in the front, alone, like a dog you tie up outside,” the mom later wrote to me. Amber and Zaiden left the store.

Amber will be filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice as she believes what happened violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, which lists specific requirements for businesses and the accommodation of wheelchairs. In an email sent out from Ellie to those who complained, she wrote: “Unfortunately our business is in the Historic District and does not have handicap accessibility. The building is over 100 years old and is on the National Historic Register.” A staffer at the ADA Information Line referred to me to point 4.2 (d) in the ADA, in the section about Historic Preservation. It states, “Access shall be provided to all levels of a building or facility…whenever practical.” Which seems like it could give a business listed on the historic register some legal wiggle room. Ultimately, it will be up to the authorities to weigh on on whether the law was broken.

I called the store and got one of the owners on the phone, Ed. He said the store would soon be issuing a statement, and I will update this post when I receive that. “We meant no harm,” he emphasized. We chatted for a bit, and he noted that Zaiden’s stroller did not “look like a wheelchair.”

“He is 2 years old, and that is his form of a wheelchair,” I said.

The email sent out by Ellie’s Choice to parents who complained also notes “This woman came in with her child with what looked like a stroller….” And this is the perception problem that exists for those who have disabilities: People think they know what a disability looks like, or even what the equipment should look like.

But you cannot tell just by looking.

My son is not what a child with a disability looks like.

Zaiden is not what a child with a disability looks like.

That’s because there is no one way to look, act or behave when it comes to disabilities. And the fact that so many people out there don’t get this makes me worry for the future of Max, Zaiden and others like them.

Laws can help enforce the accommodation of people with disabilities. But until the world gets past the stereotypes, perceptions and misconceptions of what a person with a disability “is,” there will never really be true acceptance or accommodation of people with disabilities.

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  1. by Katy

    On January 5, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Just shared this everywhere possible. This has happened to other parents I know. Frankly, I’m not exactly sure HOW a building can be accessible in the front and not in the back, but I guess you’d have to see it to know. From person experience, the problem with most stores are aisles too close together, which is completely at the store’s discretion.

  2. by Sunday Stilwell

    On January 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I have seen this all too often in public places where a child who is arguably too large for a stroller is still being pushed in one. This is especially true for children like mine who have autism. Many times keeping them in a stroller as long as possible is for their own safety.

    When Sam was 3 I was pushing him in a stroller while carrying Noah in my arms and I had someone walk up to me and say, “Put the baby in the stroller and make him (pointing to Sam) walk”…

  3. by Megan

    On January 5, 2012 at 10:29 am

    When my son was 3.5, we took him for his first visit to Disney World (to celebrate him finally learning to walk!). At the time he wore AFOs on both legs. A Disney employee saw us walking with him and told us that we should go to guest services and get a pass that would allow us to use his stroller as a wheelchair. So yeah, education is everything.

    Thanks for getting the word out.

  4. by Redneck Mommy

    On January 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Neither my son Shale, nor his brother Knox, who is a considered a quadriplegic, received wheelchairs for their disabilities until they were almost four. And both needed them.

    And yet, curiously enough, they were still just as disabled when they were younger, smaller and riding in strollers.

    Ignorant people everywhere. I’m so sorry.

  5. by Kevin Troupe

    On January 5, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Our son is 10 and his stroller/wheelchair is his “safe zone” due to his combined vision and hearing impairments. We deal with the same kind of situations as the previous comments. But, the one situation that burns me the most is that we have a permanent handicap license plate and therefore do not have the hanging card on the rear view mirror…people do not see the card and decide that we shouldn’t be parking there. We get verything from comments to glares. We have even been told that the handicap spots are for “old people” and not for kids in wheelchairs because “the parents are strong enough to push them from the regular parking spots.” Some poeple do not need to have a diagnosis to prove that they are impaired from the neck up.

    Sorry, that was from a protective dad who would rather prefer that my son could run across the parking lot on his own…without having to lick a car for sensory input :)

  6. by dderbydave

    On January 5, 2012 at 11:30 am

    This is a constant challenge for a parent with a disabled child. Problem is until you’re involved with disability it is hard to spot. My son is easy to recognise as having challenges but even we have been told to ‘make him walk’. Also, I cannot recognise many forms of disability even though we have a son who is disabled.
    Ignorance is not an evil thing, it’s simply a lack of knowledge and the work you do, Ellen, goes a long way to providing that knowledge.

  7. by Kara

    On January 5, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I was at a cafe recently discussing the great layout of their coffee shop with the owner. He then complained that he would have had more space had he not been required to build an accessible bathroom. My son was not with me. I then said, well my son thanks you, he’s a wheelchair user. He didn’t know what to say after that.

  8. by Sarah

    On January 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Thanks sonmuch for sharing this. So very true. Carsyns special stroller looks like a regular stroller. We get a ton of comments out and about, “I wish I had that stroller when my kids were growing up.” I think to myself no you don’t. I am just in the beginning stages but I am sure we will come across many rude people the older he gets.

  9. by Amber&Zaiden

    On January 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Ellen, you did an amazing job with this story. People need to realize that those with disabilities are just as much human as they are and deserve the same respect as everyone else. They deserve the same life experiences as those without brain damage or other limitation. … Kevin “Some poeple do not need to have a diagnosis to prove that they are impaired from the neck up.” This is my new favorite quote!!! I hope you dont mind if I share!!

  10. by Robin

    On January 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Said perfectly. Attitudes need to be adjusted. Check out this 10 minute Ted talk by Aimee Mullins:http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html who adds to our perception of what having a disability looks like…

  11. by Leticia Velasquez

    On January 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    There’s a tremendous bias against those with Down syndrome, like my nine year old Christina. Ninety two percent of moms abort their babies when given a diagnosis of Down syndrome or the more devastating trisomy 18. But we parents know a doctor can give you a list of symptoms, but can’t tell you the joy your child will bring you.

    That’s why I asked Rick Santorum to contribute the story of his daughter Bella’s (she has trisomy 18) life to my book on special needs children. His story is entitled “Two Years Worth Every Tear”. The book is called “A Special Mother is Born.”

  12. by Alisha

    On January 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Hmm, I guessed cerebral palsy right away. Some people are more observant, others are ignorant.

  13. by Devon

    On January 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    This is actually a problem at several “historical” sites in the country. In Cape May, NJ, their Washington Street Mall is considered a historic site and, therefore, most of the stores get away with a) not being handicapped accessible and b) not allowing strollers. In reality, all most of them would have to do is organize their aisles a little wider and turn the single step out front into a ramp. It’s not a lack of ability to modify, it’s an unwillingness to make the easy accommodations and spend a little money. Same in Williamsburg (VA), Georgetown (DC), and Gettysburg (PA), to name a few. The worst offenders are small shops, not actual historic sites. It’s irritating and a blatant misuse of the law’s wording. (Sorry for the rant; you hit a nerve.)

  14. by Kim

    On January 5, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. My son is 12 years old and has a mild form of CP. You would have no idea of his disabilities by looking at him now. But his struggles are still apart of our every day life. We used a stroller until he was far to old to use it since walking exhausted him. I find myself explaining my son to people to excuse away the looks and questions. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

  15. by Rachel

    On January 5, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    My daughter is two we found out when she was about one, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsey and so this really hit home.I hope people open their eyes and realize how absoutly perfect our children our I their own ways ! How dare they try to treat your child like an animal ! I hope the right actions are taken against them! God bless all our children !

  16. by Lily schey

    On January 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Regardless of whether the store was accessible or not, I think it would be the mom’s right to attempt to bring her child in, as long as it didn’t endanger anyone. It’s not up to the store to kick someone out just because there is no ramp, etc.

    Plus, telling her to leave a toddler out front by himself — he should be charged with attempted child endangerment!

  17. by Eily

    On January 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Love that story!! My son has CP but again would never know by looking at him. But alas his stamina isn’t very good and we as well have to do the same thing. It goes with other stuff too. He isn’t potty trained, is behind socially, emotionally, and no where near it but has been refused at preschools because of it. They always say…. He looks fine, maybe u should just push him more.

  18. by mary ellen youmans

    On January 5, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    There are so many disabilities today especially our children. My daughter Amanda will be 21 in May. She was born with servere scoliosis (which caused internal problems too & is waiting for a kidney transplant both are shot)and has had over 40 surgeries & has flat lined. She had used a wheelchair many times and always found the strenght to get out. Even when they said she wasn’t going to walk again. She had the halo surgery at 12 yo and it caused her “good leg” to become what they call a “swing or dead leg”. She has bars & screws in her and is still curved. She still walks with a limp but when she is standing still you would never know. She is only 4ft 1 in & 65 lbs. My granddaughter is the same height,size and weight. We have always had problems with people and places. They even tried to walk like she did as a kid young & old. They thought it was”cute”. Until I told them that is how she walks then they said sorry. I hope that made them think twice in the future about tryig to mimick people because you just never know. When we park in the HC zones people stare until they see her walk then they keep staring. To look at her she looks short until you see her walk. Amanda was told to be prepared to use a wheelchair in the future she told them no she will never use one, or a cane. Even when she can’t walk she won’t. She’ll sit in the car or stay home. She sees the looks & hears remarks. Our family stare back & when she’s not around we tell them so about what they are doing how it bothers her & us & remarks should not be made & they should count their blessings for not knowing the hardship we all do and lives our children have to live with. School was even worse. Once she got into 8th grade she didn’t go much & hs was worse. She was tutored at home because she got sick alot. But even the nurse accused her of putting her finger down her thought to get sick & she didn’t. Her gallbladder was serious diseased. When she did go back for a short time I went into the urse & told her she better never accused amanda of using her disabilities ever again or there will be problems. She graduated june of 2009 september she went to florida & now we live here. I feel she lives a very sad life for a very pretty girl in her 20′s and no boy wants to really “date” her when they learn everything about her. But now she is in John Casablanca elite modeling school which I hope helps her.

  19. by Deda

    On January 5, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I am probably get a lot of heat for this but it seems to me that any mother with a 2 year old on a stroller would have a problem shopping at this store. Would it still be considered discrimination and cause such an upheaval if I had not been abble to shop there because I didn’t want to leave my non disabled baby outside in her stroller? Sometimes things just don’t work. It doesn’t always translate into discrimination.

  20. by elisia

    On January 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    yes it is still cosdidered “discrimination”. it is discrimination agaagainst any mother who will not leave their child unattended. disabled- nondisabled, wheelchair – stroller or wagon for that matter you should be able to bring all of your family into any store. I believe the store owner should be held responsible for their cruel remarks ontop of everything else.

  21. by Laura

    On January 5, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    This story touched my heart when I first came across it on Facebook. It touched home because Zaiden’s mother belongs to the pediatric stroke support group I belong to, and I felt as though it were me and my childhad been denied access. I was infuriated. I left a level headed message on the store’s page asking them to explain themselves, stating that I couldn’t believe a person could be so cruel without having some sort of reason, some side of the story to tell. There is no side of a story that excuses this behavior, though, and this is what hurt my heart the most. I was looking for an answer that would renew my faith in humanity, an answer I would never find. My son has cerebral palsy, has hemiparesis, has lifelong challenges, but he doesn’t “look like” he’s disabled because, as you so eloquently state, there isn’t one way to look. I so appreciate this post, this challenge of the store owners. This is not a witch hunt against them, but rather a chance to spread awareness, to bring light to ignorance, however well-intentioned or indifferent. Thank you for your words.

  22. by Heather

    On January 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I have dealt with the looks and comments when out with my now adult friend. He has a severe heart condition and is not allowed physical exertion beyond very specific guidelines. His parents were given disabled tags and so was he as soon as he had his own car. The looks 2 teens/20 somethings got when getting out of a car were beyond ugly. One lady made the comment that we should be ashamed to use our grandparents tags to our advantage. The shut up after I commented on their obvious ignorance and pointed out my friends heart monitor.

    His mom said everyday was an opportunity for her to educate someone so one day someone else’s mom didn’t have to deal with what she did.

  23. by kelly

    On January 5, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    I work for an advocacy and family support company that works with families with special needs kids get to live the best quality of life possible. I can tell you from years of experiance that very few of these children who require the use of a “mobility seat” (my supervisor has more then 70 families that get service out of her office). Have anything that looks even remotly like a sterotypical wheelchair. In fact for families who’s children are not wheelchair bound the company I work for often facilitates the purchase of mid to higher end strollers that some of these companies (BOB and similar companies) sell interchangable and customizable pieces for. Just recently I took part in a Christmas party for the familes out of the office I work from and can say out of the 30ish families that came 90% of the children had either a very customized wheelchair or stroller.

  24. by Annette Wesolowski

    On January 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    My son is now 30 and has ADD without hyperactivity, an auditory processing deficit and Becker’s muscular dystrophy. He worked at a grocery store and when someone was describing him, she said his name and that he “looked like a Ken doll.” So true! He has thick, curly brown hair and a great, dimpled smile. Talk about invisible handicaps.
    My cousin was on a heart-transplant list after a virus left her with cardiomyopathy. She also did not look like she needed a handicapped parking space. You just can’t tell by looking.

  25. by Renee

    On January 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    I have to agree with Deda. The author herself stated that her child doesn’t “look disabled” and that the stroller they were using as a wheelchair was in fact a regular stroller. I don’t think the owner meant for her to leave the child in the stroller.at the front of the store but to leave the stroller alone and bring the child with her. If the child indeed showed little or no physical signs (that a random person would recognize) of a disability, how was the owner of the store to know that the stroller was being used as his needed wheel chair? I understand the frustration and hurt parents of differently abled children must feel by others lack of knowledge. But I think alot of times people are too quick to think they are being discriminated.

  26. by Elizabeth

    On January 6, 2012 at 1:18 am

    This is such a shame. There are so many “silent disabilities” out there. I can’t bear to read these comments! It is incredibly unfair to suggest to parents that their children do not deserve the same accommodations as adults (parking). And, yes, I imagine that 20-year olds get dirty looks for utilizing a hang tag, but there are so many people that “don’t look sick” that actually really do need that parking accessibility. Lupus and Interstitial Cystitis are both silent disabilities. And while they are more common in adults, children do get them.
    As far as the situation about the stroller in the store: a lot of stores have “no stroller” policies. Typically, if a parent with a nondisabled 2-year old wished to shop in such a store, they would leave the stroller at the front of the store and let their child walk. That is not discrimination. It is inconvenient, but not discriminatory. But this mother cannot just leave the stroller and let her child walk. And she explained that to the store owner. What should have happened is that, upon being enlightened about the situation, the owner should have accommodated Zaiden and his mother. But no accommodation was made. That is the discrimination. I don’t think that she was “too quick to think they are being discriminated.” She was actually being discriminated against. If she hadn’t been, then she would have been permitted to take her son with her in his stroller.
    I do think that there is an increasing awareness about disabilities among people who work with the general public. But there are still people who are quick to judge others and who are ignorant. But I am willing to bet that most of those people after making the mistake once and being corrected will know better than to make it again.

  27. by amy spataro

    On January 6, 2012 at 1:50 am

    My son Alex is 8 he has a rare brain disorder agenisis of the corpus callosum partcial….he’s missing a portion if his brain ….my son is very smart but behavior that’s a whole other story ….I got adhd odd pdd add ect ect and when we go in a store ppl look at me like I can’t control.my son and the dirty looks …..I hate that and there’s been comments made and I’ve defended my son ….ppl should jus keep their mouths shut because they have no idea

  28. by Curry

    On January 6, 2012 at 7:12 am

    I know this is an unpopular view, and I may be totally wrong since I was not there, but I’m not sure the store was discriminatiing against anything other than the stroller. I’m sure it could have been handled more politely, since in general businesses are not exactly trained on how to recognize invisible disabilites (hence the invisible part). The salesperson was most likely taken by surprise, or maybe even having a bad day. I don’t know. I have a child with special needs and have certainly had my fair share of strange looks and comments over the years. It is very easy to become defensive. The truth is that no one understands, unless they are living it themselves. I’m sorry the mom felt discriminated against. She should never have to explain her child’s disability, but at 2 years old, if the stroller was an issue, and she really wanted to shop, could she have carried him? And I would certainly hope the salesperson would have been professional & polite. We’re all human and kindness goes a long way in every situation. I think that I’d be more upset about the store’s poor attitude. Afterall, it’s a business and they want our money. If they are not accomadating, or impolite, we’re not forced to shop there. Totally, off subject, but I love the boys’ names also.

  29. by Heather

    On January 6, 2012 at 7:42 am

    No offense, ladies, but your children DO look like they have the disability they are diagnosed with. CP is very obvious, even in those of us who have been trained to hide it our whole lives. :)

    Personally, I don’t understand why you’re offended. “Looking disabled” is not an insult, and certainly nothing to feel shame for. The sooner you teach your children this, to embrace who they are in all their aspects, and to recognize it as a part of themselves, the sooner they can stop wasting energy hiding who they are even from themselves, and become the fully capable persons they are meant to be.

    Please don’t give your children the self shame many parents do. It dampens their potential.

  30. by Danielle

    On January 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

    I completely understand! My 4 year old son has autism, adhd and dyspraxia with severe sensory issues. You cannot tell by looking at him. I’ve had a person comment to me “Aiden doesn’t look autistic.” I say well what is autism supposed to look like then??? They couldn’t answer. My son happens to be quite verbal, yet has severe behavior and social issues. He is super smart and excels at school but can’t go to the grocery store. I get that same thing so many others get when I try to take him to the store. “Control your child.” “What kind of parent ARE you?” I just smile at them and say “My son Aiden has autism. Whats your excuse?” LOL I have learned to deal with the comments, negative and positive. I know unless you have been a special needs parent, you really don’t get it. It takes a special person to raise and teach a special needs child and we moms and dads are pretty special indeed! :)

  31. by Kris-Ann

    On January 6, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Really important story Ellen, thanks for sharing. I think the moral of the story is don’t judge a book by its cover. If everyone could just be more kind to one another we would all be better off.

  32. by Deborah Rosen

    On January 6, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I used to be in retail management, and I know what compliance with ADA requirements looks like. I’ve never been to Ellie’s so I can’t say for sure, but based on what I was able to see on their website, their aisle width is not based on “historic properties” but on how close together *they* have placed their fixtures. That’s just not acceptable and they shouldn’t have to be forced to be in compliance with the ADA. I’ll put them on my boycott list and will share this information with everyone I know.

  33. by Jemelene Wilson

    On January 6, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I remember being happy that my daughter finally got a wheelchair that looked like a wheelchair instead of her Kid Cart that looked like a “fancy stroller”. Finally she would get the respect and treatment she deserves, right? Well, not always. Sometimes asking for accommodations mean having people accuse you of wanting special privileges.
    Thank you for bringing attention to this matter.

  34. by Kay

    On January 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I love this! I’ve been following your blog for awhile (and told you about my story) and you always have the best information! We’ve had things like this happen and sadly we’re use to it now. The thing that bothers me the most is when people meet my daughter now (she’ll be 4 in Feb) and look at me with this shock of ‘omg you’re a horrible parent’ cause she doesn’t talk. Even after everything she’s gone through its ok that she can’t walk, feed herself, etc but not able to speak… its a crime!? I just people would move past the ‘disability’ thing and see the children, the people. It hurts our whole family when I notice those weird looks cause she’s to old to be in a stroller (that’s a certified wheelchair) and be carried everywhere or that she babbles instead of speaking words.

    But sadly no one gets it until you have a special needs child. They are no different than any other kid. They learn their own way, get what they need their own way, its all just their way of doing things. And like you said, CP is a very wide range of results. My daughter has TBI which resulted in CP and she has a mix of difficulties but she’s the happiest kid I’ve ever seen and that’s all I ask for!

    Sorry for the rant but being in Michigan we have our own laundry list of issues with special needs. people just need to be more accepting and less about themselves!

  35. by Tooner

    On January 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    This article makes me very angry. Just because you have a disabiilty and you might need a wheelchair, you have every right to go into stores. You should be able to take your kids with you when you shop. I am an adult who uses a wheel chair,and I dont let people leave me in random places.

  36. by Tim Gort

    On January 7, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Great story, Ellen. One of your best! This story gets to the heart of what being an advocate is all about. It’s a passion that carries us beyond parenting our own children into sharing the stories of others to create greater awareness and understanding. As the father of two girls with CP, one in a wheelchair and another in an Otto Bock stroller, this is a familiar (and common) occurrence. Bravo!

  37. by Anthony

    On January 8, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Leave the shop alone. Let them run their business in peace. If a shop does not allow strollers in their store but a parent needs to use one, then the appropriate response is simply to leave the shop without a fuss, and the shop loses a customer. It’s the shop’s loss, and if that’s the way they choose to run their business, then that’s just the way it goes. Personally, if I wanted to shop there badly enough, and if my child were small enough (like, say, a 2.5 year-old child would be), then I would have simply carried my child, and left the empty stroller in the front.

  38. by KMA

    On January 8, 2012 at 7:43 am

    This makes me mad as a 29 year old women with CP

  39. by A&Z

    On January 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Anthony- Is this hypothetical 2.5 year old child disabled? Are they 35 lbs of dead weight. Do they have sensory issues? Do they have emergency seizure medication that needs to be kept at arms length at all times? If so, then NO they can not simply be carried. And again- I have the 3k invoice to prove that my son was in his WHEELCHAIR and not a stroller.

  40. by Amanda

    On January 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. My daughter has spina bifida but fortunately walks. However no one can see the shunt in her head or her pull up (she’s 7). No one can see the hole in her side where she has to stick her catheter to urinate. I have been in numerous public restrooms where she needs to throw away her pull up or catheter and the trash can is outside of the stall. I have to carry it and yes people stare. You cannot see disabilities!

  41. by NLS

    On January 8, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    I guessed CP right away, because I look a lot like Max when I walk. Your post is spot on, mama. I have moderate diplegic CP. I stumbled on this post while looking for resources for MY own pregnancy. Moms of kiddos with CP, please always remember that more is possible for your kids than not. No matter what the “experts” say, and no matter what ignorant people (like this shop owner) do. I, and thousands of adults with CP (from mild to more severe) are living proof.

  42. by Dawn

    On January 9, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Thank you for sharing this article, and all of the comments from everyone. My 2yr old “looks normal”, but has some sensory issues that can at times cause him to get scared, overwhelmed or angry due to “too much input” for him to process. And what does a two year old do when they feel this way ?….They cry of course, sometimes uncontrollably and unconsoleably. When that happens, all I can do is talk calmly, hold him, try to reason with him by asking him questions to get his mind off of whatever scared, frustrated or freaked him out. Many people look at me like he’s misbehaving on purpose, or throwing a temper tantrum…and I’ve even had some say that he just needs a “good smack” or spanking. I usually just ignore them, because he needs me more at those times, but the last straw happened a couple of weeks ago. We were on a playdate, with one of my sons friends (who also has “invisible” special needs) in the childrens play area of the library. There was another family there too, but the parents were too busy with their texting to pay attention. Well, long story short, my son got over stimulated and ended up crying uncontrollably. After 5 min. of me trying to calm him down, the woman was huffing, rolling her eyes, shaking her head, etc. I broke down crying right there, looked at my son and my friend, and said (loud enough for the other woman to hear), “Do you ever just want to pin a sign on his shirt that says…I’M A SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD. PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH ME AND DON’T JUDGE ME..”?” So many people are just ignorant of what a disability is, and feel like a person has to “look a certain way” if they’re disabled or has special needs. Thank you all for reminding me that my son is not alone.

  43. by liarna

    On January 9, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    I’m sorry for what happened, and that people (myself included sometimes) are so ignorant of children and adults with disabilities. I must bring up how ever, what if her child was just in a stroller due to age… the shops policy means that very young children and babies are meant to spend i don’t know how long at the front due to not being allowed strollers in the aisles. I would hope ANY mother using a stroller (whether as a wheelchair or not) would leave that store. I’m glad that the lady in this situation is doing something about it, but that will only change the store for those with a disability and not for general stroller use. anyway, i’m sorry if I sounded rude, by no means did i intend that, but i wanted to point this out. Go Amber and Zaiden :D

  44. by Diane Fosco

    On January 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    I’ve been to this store and I like it. They have delicate items which is why they do not allow strollers. I am sure they owner did not mean that the mother had to leave her child unattended outside— the owner was just following her store policy of no strollers— the store is not wheelchair accessibile– it’s in a historical district. I think the mother is overreacting. You can hate me all you want. I have children with learning disabilities. They receive remedial help– they get taken out of their regular classroom. Their “work” doesn’t get displayed outside their rooms like other students— one teacher even did show and tell when my son was not there– yet I never complained… oh well enough said- I just feel this mother it overly defensive…

  45. by Brier-Rose

    On January 13, 2012 at 11:32 am

    Anthony, you are mostly right on that one, but A&Z is right, too. But A&Z, you are so lucky that your child has a disability that others can clearly see, and understand that it IS, in fact, a disability. I had extreme social difficulty all through school, from K through 12, because of undiagnosed learning disabilities. I was yelled at and my answers handled very disrespectfully by teachers who are supposed to know about LD…including the teacher who visited me in the hospital shortly before I was discharged after my automobile-bicycle accident. Because I was smart enough to develop coping mechanisms to deal with SOME of the academic difficulties/impossibilities, when I was diagnosed with dyslexia a month before I graduated, my EBD case manager and my school counselor refused to believe I was actually LD. This was true even after my doctor had sent them each a formal letter about my diagnosis. Yes, I was treated poorly when I was stuck in a wheelchair, with 1.5-foot long pins sticking out of my leg, a black eye, and an eye-patch. But to this day, I am still treated very poorly because people refuse to educate themselves about learning disabilities, and that includes educators. I am constantly being treated very obnoxiously, meanly, given dirty looks, and the physical wounds healed up decades ago. I still have a relatively minor eye condition, but people don’t notice unless they’re looking for it, or they’re REALLY paying close attention (even so, I am very self-conscious about it).
    There are worse things than getting booted from a store, or even a lot of stores. There will always be ways around that. You can’t make people accept and be kind toward individuals with LD. What — am I supposed to show everyone I encounter my state ID and explain to them what the little letter in the box means? People don’t have the time or patience to have such things explained to them in most of the adult world, and that’s their choice. And thank God they HAVE that choice. GET OVER IT. In general, it is the person with the disability who has to make adjustments, because it’s THEIR disability. Those who refuse to serve or get to know, etc., a person BECAUSE of their disability — Their attitude is THEIR disability, and they are lesser because of it.

  46. by What we think we see « Proper Noun Blog

    On January 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    [...] tweeted around some by some parenting folks I follow.  A mom of a child with cerebral palsy writes “This is what a child with a disability looks like, right? Wrong.”  You see, her son doesn’t Look Disabled.   That seems like a good thing until you find [...]

  47. by Jennifer

    On January 27, 2012 at 8:32 am

    My best friend has a disability that has left her in a wheelchair. She is 30 years old and one of the best people I’ve ever met. We enjoy going out and doing things together. This past Christmas we went to our local “Christmas Downtown” celebration.
    All the stores were open and serving holiday refreshments. There was an historic home open as well, with staff in full Victorian costume and a five member wind ensemble. My friend LOVES this kind of stuff so I tried to get her as close to inside the house as I could. Some men on staff noticed and came out and picked her wheelchair up and carried her inside! Wow. I just wanted to cry! They were so accommodating.
    From some of the questions we were asked I believe they will be looking at plans to make this home wheelchair accessible as will some of the shops we went into.
    Often all it takes to make people think about things like this is to SEE someone come in and move around in the current set up. So don’t be discouraged! Continue to get out there and enjoy as much of life as you can. You are helping yourself and those who will follow after you.
    Great article Ms. Seidman!

  48. by Roberta

    On January 30, 2012 at 9:48 am

    This is one of those stories that makes me say “what the HELL is wrong with people?” I can see initially making an assumption about a child brought into a store in a stroller. But when you find out that stroller is the child’s wheelchair? It’s easy – you make an exception. You apologize, find a place for the stroller/wheelchair, and that’s it. So what if there is a stroller in your store for 10 or 15 or 20 minutes? Because now that you’ve been horribly rude to a disabled child and his mother, you are embroiled in a lawsuit and you’re national news. Good work, Ellie’s.

  49. [...] This Is What A Child With A Disability Looks Like, Right var _gaq = [['_setAccount','UA-16336519-7'],['_trackPageview']];(function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www&#039 ;) + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })(); // [...]

  50. by Eva van Dikkenberg

    On September 3, 2012 at 2:58 am

    Bij stom toeval ben ik op deze site terecht gekomen, en ik vind het knap dat je zo’n uitstekend bericht hebt kunnen schrijven over dit punt. En deze informatie is ook echt leerzaam geweest voor mij omdat ik zelf ervaringen heb gehad over dit onderwerp. Deze website over heeft me ook veel advies gegeven over dit onderwerp.