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When you meet an amputee, and young children


athomeontheprairie
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There's no tactful way for me to ask this person irl. So I'm asking here. If my questions are offensive to anyone, please know that is not my intent, and that I'm happy to change my words/questions to something else if you'll simply point it out.

 

There is a place we frequent where the first person we will meet when you walk in the door has no arms or legs.
He's very friendly and my kids always want to ask questions. Basic questions. "How do you walk?" "How do you pick up and answer your phone?"

He's wonderful. But no matter what I say, it never seems appropriate. My kids are young enough that they are given grace and he SEEMS to welcome their questions.

 

What should I say? What is appropriate, what is not? I

 

Fwiw, he was born this way. He also believes in God (as do I).

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We have a veteran at our church with arms (both prosthetic with hooks) and missing one leg. We shake his hook. Or we lean and touch his shoulder to say hello.

 

Human touch is important. If he has no prosthetics, and he was warm and friendly I might touch his shoulder just as you'd shake a person's right hand. If a person had only one arm/hand I'd shake with ever one they had, even if it was the left one.

 

As for questions, if you're with him in a social setting, not just in a greeter line, that would be a more appropriate time for young kids to ask questions (if he welcomed that).

 

With our friend at our church, we just talk to the kids away from Ron about why he is that way and how he still likes people to greet him. We also just explain how his mobility is different, but that he's still a full person whom God loves.

 

Our eldest is a young 7. All this clicks with them.

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I must be missing something in your post.  What do you mean "what do you say"?  Do you mean are you allowed to ask personal questions of that nature as an adult?  No.  If he wants to tell you things he will.  Do you mean what do you say to your kids when they ask personal questions of that nature?  I guess acknowledge that he is treating them gracefully.  I can't tell how old your children are, though.  If they are over 8 years old, then I definitely think that they are old enough to not ask him questions every single time you see him.  Even younger, depending on understanding, I would work on interacting with him as someone who is not just an oddity to be asked about.  I would model this for your children by saying "Hi." and asking him how he is and making the same kind of small talk (or more specific talk if you know him) that you would make with any one you meet. 

 

I had a pastor who was born without arms and legs.  He volunteered a lot of information and was very gracious.  But it was his call on what to share and when and to what degree. 

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My son has only met two people who had prostheses. Both have said they welcome children's questions (he had a lot of them!), because it lets them answer honestly and fully.  As parents I think we have a tendency to pretend that the abnormality doesn't exist and hush the child or gloss over it.  Because of these two wonderful people my son got to understand what a Purple Heart is for, how people are born different, how they've worked to train their bodies in other ways, what muscles are affected by different parts of the body, and how to offer help, but not pity.

 

I refuse to bring any religion into it.  Imagine a child being told God loves everyone the way they are, and then hitting Deuteronomy where God curses people with blindness and Leviticus where the disabled are never to worship and various other hateful statements woven throughout.  I'd rather save those religious discussions for when a child is old enough to understand that prejudice pervades all cultures, and these statements are nothing more than pretending hate is God's will.

A child being told God loves everyone and then reading, yeah, he doesn't, is going to do more damage than anything you can possibly fairy dust gloss over.

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I have seen several articles from parents of kids who have physical limitations issues that are obvious say they much rather kids asks questions they have so it can be explained then to be hushed or said that it is not nice to ask questions.

Edited by MistyMountain
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My son has only met two people who had prostheses. Both have said they welcome children's questions (he had a lot of them!), because it lets them answer honestly and fully. As parents I think we have a tendency to pretend that the abnormality doesn't exist and hush the child or gloss over it. Because of these two wonderful people my son got to understand what a Purple Heart is for, how people are born different, how they've worked to train their bodies in other ways, what muscles are affected by different parts of the body, and how to offer help, but not pity.

 

I refuse to bring any religion into it. Imagine a child being told God loves everyone the way they are, and then hitting Deuteronomy where God curses people with blindness and Leviticus where the disabled are never to worship and various other hateful statements woven throughout. I'd rather save those religious discussions for when a child is old enough to understand that prejudice pervades all cultures, and these statements are nothing more than pretending hate is God's will.

A child being told God loves everyone and then reading, yeah, he doesn't, is going to do more damage than anything you can possibly fairy dust gloss over.

Both OP and man without limbs in OP's post believe in God. So there's no harm in discussing a shared belief as it's relevant both to OP and to her friend and is relevant to my friend, Ron and me.

 

Prejudice? Hate? That's a stretch here. Right? Because we're just talking about ways to approach people without limbs or with prosthetics, when children are innocently curious.

 

But now this is veared off into an OT Scripture thing???? Not connecting that dot especially when God is a commonality shared between these people.

Edited by MommyLiberty5013
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I must be missing something in your post.  What do you mean "what do you say"?  Do you mean are you allowed to ask personal questions of that nature as an adult?  No.  If he wants to tell you things he will.  Do you mean what do you say to your kids when they ask personal questions of that nature?  I guess acknowledge that he is treating them gracefully.  I can't tell how old your children are, though.  If they are over 8 years old, then I definitely think that they are old enough to not ask him questions every single time you see him.  Even younger, depending on understanding, I would work on interacting with him as someone who is not just an oddity to be asked about.  I would model this for your children by saying "Hi." and asking him how he is and making the same kind of small talk (or more specific talk if you know him) that you would make with any one you meet. 

 

I had a pastor who was born without arms and legs.  He volunteered a lot of information and was very gracious.  But it was his call on what to share and when and to what degree. 

 

This is a store we frequent "regularly" in the nearest city. We always enter the same way, and he is always the first one we meet. The kids are usually already talking to him by the time I make it in with the cart (yes, they are in before I am. This is not a post about safety) We've met him maybe a half dozen times, and will see him again next week when we go into the city for supplies.

 

My youngest two are 3 and 5. I don't want to stop them AFTER the question has already left their mouth, because that feels rude too. And by the time the question is asked, he is answering. I don't want to cut him off if he'd rather answer, and I'd rather have the words to say to my kids if I need to in a way that is respectful. They usually just say "hi" and "how are you?" but last time... they had a lot of questions!

 

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I would try to normalize the experience so they don't feel the need to ask questions. Especially because this is not a close relationship. Most people I have discussed this with prefer innocent kids questions over people staring and yelling at their kids to hush and quickly running away. But the preferred interaction is usually normalization.

 

****This is purely my personal experience and generalizations from the people I have had contact with. Obviously everyone will not feel the same way.

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I would say it depends on his comfort level, which might be hard to know in this situation.

 

I work with many severely impaired students and some have limb and/or facial deformities. Their parents often welcome questions from other kids.

 

My mom is in a power wheelchair and while not as disabled as the man you see, she gets a lot of questions from kids. She welcomes them and tells them why her legs don't work, how she drives a car, how her wheelchair works, etc.

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I think a bit of discussion on appropriate and personal questions is called for. You don't want them grilling the poor man. I know I just want to get on with my errands and not settle in for a long discussion in the Wal-Mart entryway.

 

When they ask, and he answers, thank him for his time and patience, just as you would anyone else who answers their questions.

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Yours aren't the only curious kids he encounters. As long as he doesn't seem to mind, I wouldn't worry about it, honestly. It sounds like maybe it's making YOU uncomfortable, which is different than making HIM feel uncomfortable.

 

You can certainly talk to your kids about it before going into the shop, but I wouldn't necessarily encourage them to stifle their curiosity. That seems like it might send an unintended message that differences are negative.

 

When my DS was around 3 or 4, there was a man at the ice rink who would be practicing sled hockey while DS practiced his own hockey skills. Naturally, he thought that was SUPER COOL and had a bunch of questions. The guy was awesome and DS was really enthusiastic--I mean, as if hockey players aren't tough enough, now here's this guy who can play without legs! He learned a lot from the man and the conversation was super respectful.

 

I think in general little kids don't see things the same way adults do, there isn't so much baggage or whatever. They ask because something like that is just one more thing to figure out, probably with the same level of importance as anything else they ask about. You can use it as an opportunity to talk about respect and so forth, and how cool it is that we are all different and alike in our own various ways.

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I think a bit of discussion on appropriate and personal questions is called for. You don't want them grilling the poor man. I know I just want to get on with my errands and not settle in for a long discussion in the Wal-Mart entryway.

 

When they ask, and he answers, thank him for his time and patience, just as you would anyone else who answers their questions.

This is solid advice.

 

On the flip side, he has probably dealt with these questions his whole life and your little ones are probably not the first children to ask. My daughter has hearing aids and she gets MANY innocent questions from other children. She is gracious and answers them, often taking a hearing aid out to show them. She is not bothered by it in the least. He sounds lovely and your little ones sound sweet and curious. It is a wonderful time to sit down with them and talk about how difference are wonderful and interesting but that just like please and thank you, we have social etiquette when it comes to asking others about their bodies. If they are still curious you could always contact the VA and ask if there is anyone who might be willing to answer questions or maybe there is an age appropriate book on the topic.

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I would probably allow my children to ask a couple of questions and then move them along  "let's go, children, and let Mr. Smith get back to ____"    This would allow Mr. Smith to say, oh, no, it's okay or just let us go on our way.

 

I might attempt a conversation with him without the children - maybe start by apologizing for my children asking intrusive questions.   This would allow him to say (or not say) that he doesn't mind, and you to state that you don't want your kids to be a bother, etc.

 

Anne

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You yourself could talk with them about their questions. You don't known personal specifics, but if they are curious about why a person is born with differences/how might he function/etc you could look that up. If they want to know personal detail you could help them filter appropriate questions ahead of time and plan on like 1 each. If they want to be friendly they could draw or color a picture?

I think it might also be good to let them know that while his difficulties may be obvious, there is more to this man than that. Maybe they share interests (like dogs, enjoy movies...) that could be topics of conversation.

He may appreciate that someone thinks of him during the week. You never know who is lonely and needs a friendly hi.

My children talk to everyone. We have "friends" who work at pretty much every business we frequent. The employees will even notice if one or more of them is not with us (not in a weird way). So, we've had many discussions on what you may and may not ask people. (You may not ask about why someone is divorced, specifics about where you/they live, why someone does not have children. You may ask about pets, favorite foods, compliment things you notice - one of my daughters is fascinated by tattoos [emoji4].)

All this to say, chances are this man does not mind your children and their questions.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I use a wheelchair most of the time that I'm out and about, and I tend to field a lot of questions from curious children. It never bothers me.

 

Some parents seem embarrassed by their young children staring, but I try to defuse that with a friendly "Hi!" if I notice a young kid eyeing me with intrigue. :)

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I don't know how old your children are, but if they are age 4+ I would think that you could talk with them about their questions, explain to them that it isn't polite to ask about other people's bodies (and that they should ask you in private instead), and specifically what they *should* say to this gentleman when they see him.  And then remind them of all this right before they meet him (multiple times, if necessary).

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I think I'd talk with my children about what things are okay to ask of strangers and what things are maybe more personal.  Maybe the man doesn't mind, but maybe he is really tired of the questions all his life and is just being polite.  You could make sure they walk in with you instead of ahead of you.  (Put the youngest in the cart at first?)  Also, I don't think asking personal questions of a greeter at a store is the right place to ask those questions.

 

I think encouraging your kids to continue being friendly is great, though!  But maybe being friendly while treating him just the same as they would anyone else could be a goal.  You yourself could try and answer the specific questions they have about his disability.  You can maybe help your kids understand a little what it might feel like for him, too.

 

My dh gets stared at and sometimes asked questions by children.  He is always smiling and polite, but inside I know it makes him a little sad.  

 

 

 

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Well, call me crazy, but maybe the easiest way to deal with this is to ask HIM?  

 

As in, "Hey kids, go look at the candy selection over there!"

"Sir, I'm sorry my kids always bombard you with questions.  I'm happy to tell them to stop if it bothers you.  If it doesn't bother you, I will let them be curious and get to know you and what life looks like for a differetnly-abled person.  What would you prefer?"

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Oh, another idea is after discussing with the kids, help them brainstorm a few non-disability related questions to ask the guy.  

 

"What's your favorite movie?"

"Do you have any pets?"

"Are you going anywhere on vacation this year?"

 

And of course, younger kids have questions like, what's your favorite color, animal, food, ...  

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The Butterfly Circus with Nick Vujicic, born with no arms or legs:

 

 

may want to google more about this gentleman and all he can do.  no limitations.

 

 

Kyle Maynard:   Kyle Maynard is a speaker, author, and ESPY Award-winning mixed martial arts athlete, known for becoming the first quadruple amputee to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro without the aid of prosthetics

 

http://kyle-maynard.com

 

These are great places for your kids to start.   The gentleman is bombarded by questions everyday.  He is a person long before he is an amputee.  Try to get your kids to see that and find other things to connect with him about.  My own daughter is bombarded with questions every day too.  She wants someone to get to know her because of herself, not because of her missing limb.  

Edited by zimom
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