Educate Because Fear Always Springs From Ignorance

February 6, 2008 Kyron No Comments

I got a wonderful letter from Johanna the other day. She was kind enough to write to me and share a piece she did with Lifetime TV’s HealthCorner just this past Sunday. This is a show hosted by Leeza Gibbons.  This segment features Johanna and her son Jack, who is a beautiful child with Down Syndrome and Alopecia. The piece Johanna & Leeza did focused on the teaching aspect of being a caregiver/parent of a special needs child and how to handle the insensitivity sometimes associated with people’s well meaning gestures. This piece is well worth the viewing as many of you (and I right along with you) will relate to much of what Johanna has to say. It’s available by clicking here.  It will be re-airing March 23rd on Lifetime TV (check your local listings icon smile Educate Because Fear Always Springs From Ignorance )

I thought it really connected well with the piece done at My New Normal that I featured on the 29th of January (Things Not to Say…) Some of the commentary by Leeza left me looking further at what was clickable on the website. Filed under the category of you learn something new every day if you’re open to it, I learned (thank you Johanna) in addition to all the other things Leeza Gibbons does, she runs The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation and Leeza’s Place which is a support place for caregivers of loved ones with memory disorders. It was founded in honor of her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. On the front page of Leeza’s Place is a link on the left hand side for the Ten Commandments of Caregiving

While I highly recommend you check out the whole list, Number 5 is mentioned in the commentary by Leeza after Johanna’s vignette which is DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. Boy isn’t that the truth! It’s something we have to learn to do because inevitably someone is going to say something off that Things Not to Say list. It’s not so easy to turn the other cheek some days, especially when people say things in front of your child which are so offensive and you KNOW that your child has caught on to at least part of it.

I remember one time my daughter was attempting to open a door at a store and it was taking a bit of time. Anyone looking could see that she was different and learning a valuable lesson but this one individual apparently didn’t think that was important enough to give a minute of his time. He made an incredibly rude and offensive remark (which time has graciously erased from my mind in specific) which Katherine understood enough of to be crushed. I remember turning around and giving a clever and scathing reply but the reality is it did nothing to fix how Katherine felt. I would have better served her by ignoring him and addressing her pain directly.

The reality is people say things most of the time without engaging their brains – myself included. I sometimes wonder if in my life before Katherine I would have been that individual who could have said so unkind a thing. Ok, I know I wouldn’t have said it directly and hurt a child’s feelings, but if I’m honest with myself , I sure might have muttered under my breath about the time and my precious schedule. I am a different person than who I was pre-Katherine in so many significant ways, not the least of which is how I try to approach and interact with people. I know that my approach with people has changed since that day as well. I always try to (not always successfully) approach things that people say with the assumption that they meant it in the best way possible. Given the opportunity to deal with that same individual again, I’d like to think my response would be something like “Oh, that’s so kind of you to offer to assist us with the door however my daughter is working on a new skill and we surely do appreciate you waiting a moment while she succeeds at opening the door.” and I’d present it with the sweetest smile I could muster.

I think this is what Johanna’s piece is trying to help all of us remember – DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. Educating people about differences is critical because fear always springs from ignorance. And most of the time when people say something that’s just wrong it’s out of ignorance. The best way to fight that is with education. Thanks for reminding us Johanna!

If you have something of interest like Johanna did why not drop me a note? Who knows maybe I’ll feature it here too!

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