Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability
Edited By Philip Smith
Chapter 11: “That’s OK. They Are Beautiful Children,” by Kathleen Kotel
Growing up, I lived across the street from a little girl with long dark hair who was a year or two older than me—and also blind. I never played with her, not because I did not want to. I did. I was never given the opportunity. Her mother did not allow or encourage her to play with the children in the neighborhood, while her older and younger brother participated in many of the neighborhood games and activities. Whenever I asked my mother about the little girl, and why she did not play with me or the other kids in the neighborhood or attend the same school that I did, she usually responded with a comment regarding her blindness. She would say something along the lines of, “Well she is blind and blind kids go to school for blind children.” In doing so, she inadvertently passed on the notion that children with disabilities are not normal and do not belong in mainstream society. My mother was always quick to change the subject too. We never had a discussion about my neighbor’s disability, nor did she encourage me to have a play date or a relationship with her. Her blindness was an unspoken subject, something to avoid.
I began to formulate mostly unconscious beliefs about normalcy and disability: Being blind means one is different, not normal, not like everyone else. Being different (blind) means one lives in a neighborhood, but one doesn’t play with the other children who are...
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