A compliment or word of kindness can go a long way, but too often people with special needs or their families are met with stares, rude comments, and insults. Luckily, times are changing. Thanks to the work of disabled self-advocates and parents who are sharing their stories, there's a growing awareness and acceptance of people with disabilities. We see this in big stories like the Showtime network recently pulling a comedy special that used the R-word repeatedly, and in smaller ones like that of Pam De Almeida, a Canadian mom to Sophia, an 18-month-old with Down Syndrome.
While in a restaurant recently, a couple approached Pam and her daughter. Expecting rude stares and comments, Pam was delighted when she and her daughter received the exact opposite. She recounted the experience on her Facebook page, Slice of Life:
"The man greeted Sophia with a high five and a handshake, and Sophia smiled and waved back," she wrote in part. "He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, 'I have a story I would really like to share with you'.... He told me that he had watched the news last night. There was an interview of a mother who had recently given birth to a child with a major disability. She was on the news defending her decision to keep her baby. She was defending her choice NOT to terminate despite her doctors encouraging her to do so. He said, 'The point is, you never know a persons impact on the world. You can never know what a person is able to do unless you give them a chance.' He looked at me just before he turned to walk away and said, 'You are a beautiful person. Your daughter is beautiful. Congratulations!'"
What a lovely interaction and a perfect reminder of how far a kind word can go towards promoting acceptance and making people with disabilities feel more loved! And I want to pull the stranger's words out here and end with them, because they are profound and they are what I keep repeating today as I parent my autistic son: "You never know a person's impact on the world. You can never know what a person is able to do unless you give them a chance."