New Possibilities

Dealing with questions about your child

Some Reach parents never receive unwanted attention, while others have told us that they came up against intrusive questioning about why an arm/hand/finger is missing, but dealt with it in a matter of fact manner.

In the words of a Reach child:

Well Mum, its a bit like being a celebrity – some days you feel like it and some days you don’t

The impact of unwanted attention depends on how we actually feel and how much else is going on in our lives.

We would say that dealing with this type of attention starts early. Lots of parents expect it and prepare for it, and are then pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen as often as they feared.

Here’s what some of our parents have to say:

I wasn’t sure if we had to explain or not in the early days.  For people I didn’t know at all, I didn’t explain anything.  Sometimes I felt a bit insecure if people were looking in the pram and I was always prepared for an inappropriate comment.”

“I think sometimes people don’t even realise.”

“For us the best way to deal with it has to be very open, matter of fact and not to explain too much.”

“We use humour now that Chloe can be part of it…. a shark bit it off works well!

Other parents found it quite challenging but developed a range of responses.

I would initiate a conversation with children because once they had had a chat and were told it didn’t hurt they would no longer be bothered.”

“At first I hid the issue so no questions were fired, and now if someone asks I confront it and tell them he was born like it and we don’t have a reason.  Unwanted strangers attention gets ignored.

There does seem to be a divide in that some Reach parents will offer explanations to children but not to adults. Adults are seen as old enough to know better. In most cases it is Reach parents who feel varying levels of annoyance rather than the children themselves.

But whatever you say, remember that your child learns from you, so try to react calmly and give a measured response. Your reaction can have as much impact on your child as the questions itself.

Our members Facebook group is a good place to ask other parents how they handled questions from both children and adults. It’s a private group so a great place to ask your own questions.

Dealing with issues at school

If your Reach child has issues with bullying, it’s really important for parents to work closely with the school to address the issue quickly and carefully. At Reach charity, we recommend starting with a similar approach to the below example from a member, in the first instance:

A child with one arm happily sailed through her pre-school and nursery class which had a separate playground. When she moved up a year she started to be bullied by older children in the ‘big’ playground.  She became withdrawn in the classroom, unhappy to play outside and her parents noticed a change in her confidence at home. Mum contacted school to discuss the situation face to face.

The school’s bullying policy included bullying related to disability. The school was concerned that the policy was not working and they took advice from the local support services and from the pupil and her parents. The school decided that it needed to take a number of steps, including addressing name-calling and bullying (including that related to disability) and undertaking work on disability issues in a number of classes.

For more general practical advice on bullying, we recommend Kidscape, who provide advice and have an extensive range of information freely available to young people, parents and professionals who work directly with children.