People Ask the Darndest Questions

Raising my daughter, Gabrielle, has been an interesting journey. Gabrielle has special needs, and we are both often put into an awkward position by the questions of others. “What’s wrong with her?” “Does she have Cerebral Palsy?” “Can she walk?” “Can she talk?”

I am not sure why adults feel they are entitled to such private information about my daughter, or why they would think it was okay to ask these questions in front of her. My daughter is a human being with feelings, and she understands everything that she hears even though she can’t always express herself in a way that is understandable to others. Though I am no longer offended by the questions, I still get blindsided as I try to find an appropriate response.

As a mom, I struggle with wanting to educate others about epilepsy, but I don’t want to do so at Gabrielle’s expense. On one hand, I need to be sensitive and protect my daughter’s privacy by not divulging more information than is necessary. On the other hand, I have the opportunity to educate others and share what a wonderful experience it has been raising my daughter.

I usually welcome questions when they are asked with sensitivity, but that’s not always the case. This past June while vacationing at the Gulf Shores with my children, a mom with a young child asked what was wrong with Gabrielle. I wanted to say that there was nothing wrong with her and that she was perfect in my eyes, and what was wrong with this mother for asking such a rude question? But I didn’t say that, of course, because I don’t want to dissuade people from asking questions. What I do want is to encourage people to be sensitive, to consider the person’s feelings before asking and to ask questions directly. Don’t ask me what’s wrong with my daughter when she’s standing right beside me. Ask Gabrielle to tell her own story, and be ready to listen.

- Diann

4 responses to “People Ask the Darndest Questions

  1. I understand completely! I had a nephew, who has now passed away, with Cerebral Palsy. He was 17 years old but in a wheel chair, unable to express himself through words or signs, hooked up to a ventilator and fed with a tube. Many observers were very in awe of what they saw. My sister and family made sure he was included in all family activities and many observers either stared or asked questions. My sister had many of the same feelings as Diann. She seemed to be fine when young children would wander over and want to know more, but when an adult would ask an inappropriate question, she often felt that they should know better. I have to say that sharing knowledge is the better outcome… Great ideas, Diann. No one could possible know or understand the happiness and joy Gabrielle has brought to your life but you. She is an integral part of your family and is accepted for herself just as your other children are accepted. Thanks for sharing from the heart.

  2. Diann Forbes

    Thanks Andrea for sharing. Your nephew has an incredible family. I would love to meet them sometime if they are ever in Cincinnati.

  3. I am one of Gabrielle’s closest friends and I spend most of my summer with her and whenever we are out in public we get stares and questions too. I struggle with wanting to tell the world everything about Gabrielle because I think she is so awesome! But I have to stop myself because she’s not an exhibit. She’s a human being fully capable of understanding her surroundings- including rude comments! I know diann would agree that the main objective, and sometimes most difficult task, is to just let people see for themselves how awesome Gabrielle is and how CAPABLE she is! If you have time to listen, Gabrielle will find a way to tell you her story herself! I can attest that it is a great story to hear.

  4. Diann Forbes

    Bailey, Our family is so fortunate to have you in our lives, especially Gabrielle. Thanks for sharing!