This blog post has been contributed by Deepa Garwa.
It was a normal day, nothing unusual. Saturday afternoon, a visit to the nearby mall with both the children, where I was checking out the ‘to buy’ list while my son was pestering me to get him another poster of his favourite soccer star and my little monster wanting to lie down on the floor yet again!
Anyway, it was a pretty usual outing for us when I saw an elderly woman in the aisle observing my daughter with a wrinkled nose and pitiful eyes (she had probably never seen anybody with Down syndrome out in the open before). I let out a sigh (didn’t affect me much but still!) and smiled at her, asking Aarshia to wave back. The woman was startled and smiled back awkwardly; vanishing in an instant and we went about our business of picking Aarshia up, running, selecting items and laughing about the whole thing.
This is not a one-off incident. This is a routine affair where my daughter gets noticed like celebrities but minus the awe and plus the pity. Pity for her and more pity for me as a mother. This used to affect me a great deal, but not anymore! Now I look at these women—elderly, just married, expecting, middle aged—and choose to not get affected because I do believe that they don’t know anything more than pity, and mostly they are victims of unawareness, prejudices and social stigmas.
I do not believe that people are largely insensitive, I believe they are ignorant and don’t know the right way of responding to a child with special needs. They might believe that such a family is always sad, unhappy and its members look like zombies but that is an absolute fictitious picture! The truth is entirely different. The special needs families may not mingle so much with others, that is largely because of the responsibilities and the needs of the child.
Being a special needs mother, I would like for people to come and talk to me or just say hello instead of feeling awkward in my daughter’s presence. If I could, I would tell all those who feel pity for us that we don’t need it. If given a choice, I would still want her to be my daughter and I am sure every special needs parent feels that way.