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January 20, 2019

How Our Children Become Narrow-Minded

Last week, I chanced upon a news item of this lady who once received an odd phone call from her son’s school. The school administration wanted her to withdraw her son from the school because other parents were demanding so.

You see, this mother’s son is a special needs child — he was born with cerebral palsy. Undeniably, taking care of a child with disability is not easy, and requires lots of strong will, commitment and patience.

Back to the phone call; the school said that parents were complaining about her son, and that if the school did not remove that ‘abnormal’ child from the school, then they would withdraw their children from it.

This situation worried me on so many levels.

One, it made me wonder what generation of parents some of us are, we who would make such a demand. True, children with special needs have certain learning challenges, and there are special schools that cater for them. However, if the issue bothers a parent that much, wouldn’t there be a better way of dealing with it, rather than demand that the school eject the child, so that they (not their child) will be more comfortable?

The parent could, for instance, find out from their own child what he thinks about the child with disability. How does he interact with the child? Are they friends? Do they play together? Does the child bother him? Does the child stop him from doing better in class?

The bothered parent could also take a moment to meet the parent of the special needs child, and maybe try to understand her reasoning behind bringing her ‘abnormal’ child to that school as opposed to leaving the child at home or taking him to a special needs school. The parent can even give her a piece of her mind if she so chose. I’m sure there are many reasons the ‘accused’ mother would give — some of which would or would not be agreeable to the demanding parent, but at least the conversation would have happened.

One other thing — that label ‘abnormal’ is very sad. It is derogatory. And why a mature adult, and a parent at that, would choose to call another’s child abnormal is unfortunate. It stinks of prejudice.

Now, to the school administration. That phone call from the school to that mom should not even have been made in the first place. The matter should have been dealt with long ago – the time when parents of the ‘normal’ children were making those demands.

I’m sure the school has a policy about enrolment of children with special needs. And if not, then that should have been the time to do so. All schools should have a stance on whether they accept such children or not, and this should be made known to all parents. And that is the reference the school administration should have made to the demanding parents – instead of ambushing the special needs mom to withdraw her child from the school just because other parents don’t want him there. I know that most private schools are in business, and I know that they will do anything to retain their clients, but I dare ask, aren’t there rules and boundaries?

Lastly, most children have no issues with peers who are different from them. Children don’t see tribe, colour, race or disability. It is we adults who discriminate and lump people into “us” and “them”. I’m sure the children have no problem playing with the ‘abnormal’ child, but when the parent begins to make the child see it is a problem, then the child will begin to think it is a problem. And that is how we develop a society of snobbish, intolerant people. Then we begin to wonder how we got there.

Let’s develop a culture of inclusivity, and also try to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before we judge them. Let’s pass on positive values to our children.

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