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.