We have your token child with special needs sprinkled occasionally on US television. We all get excited when Sesame Street has a service dog or a child in a wheelchair. And you might see these characters if you are lucky here and there, once a week... maybe once a month even. It certainly isn't an everyday occurrence when you turn on the television for your children.
Most of us are familiar with only a handful of differently-abled children's characters. Here is a list that most of you may recognize:
- Linda, Sesame Street
- Left Door Knocker (partial), Labyrinth
- Lois (partial), Bear in the Big Blue House
- Pops (partial), The Muppet Show
- World's Oldest Fraggle (partial, carries an ear horn), Fraggle Rock
- Old Fozziewig (partial, carries an ear horn), The Muppet Christmas Carol
- Ethyl Phillips, Dinosaurs
- Griotte, 5, Rue Sésame
- Katie, Sesame Park
- Ricardo, Talk, Listen, Connect
- Sivan, Rechov Sumsum
- Tarah, Sesame Street
- Traction Jackson, Sesame Street
- Beggar (uses a crutch), The Muppet Christmas Carol
- Jason (Down syndrome), Sesame Street
- Kami (HIV positive), Takalani Sesame (also appears on Sesame Square and The Adventures of Kami and Big Bird)
- Long John Silver (amputee), Muppet Treasure Island
- Tiny Tim Cratchit (kidney disease or rickets), The Muppet Christmas Carol
You'd be so in shock you'd take pictures just like we did. Not what you see everyday, not certainly here in the US. And it doesn't stop there. We're watching bedtime stories with a narrator in a power wheelchair. Yes, we took a picture of that too!
Inclusion feels very different in other places of the world. I never would have known that if I hadn't experienced it for myself. Not one time did a person stare at my child, not once was there a rude comment from anyone. People on the street would stop us to speak directly to my child, even knowing he likely couldn't speak back. I had likely found the closest feeling to normal that I've had in five years since Noah's birth. Those types of things should be happening everywhere worldwide. Our children need to be exposed to shows like what CBeebies is offering on a daily basis. It helps teach acceptance and understanding at such an early age. Not to mention the world of good it does for children with special needs to see themselves just like everyone else. Cognitively, Noah understands everything, and he very much loved seeing other children like him on television.
I encourage you to read this article about Mr. Tumble (also known as Justin Fletcher) http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/mr-tumble-star-justin-fletcher-1271878
CBebbies also has a presenter Cerrie Burnell who has made a big impact in UK programming. Her story equally inspiring and well worth the read:
Thank you CBebbies for making us feel so normal as a family as we cuddled that beautiful Ireland morning in our hotel.
We are less when we don't include everyone.
Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.