How do you handle people's comments about Nichole as well as children who do not mean to hurt but do in their natural curiosity?
When Nichole was a baby, I was sure everywhere we went people would stare at her because she had Down syndrome. Whenever people would say things like, "She is so cute!" Deep down I struggled thinking that they were being nice not knowing what to say because of her Down syndrome looks. Now that Nichole is 3 years old, I look back and realize that those were my thoughts and feelings. I was the one dealing with the diagnosis of my baby, not them! When someone said Nichole was a beautiful baby, it was because she was beautiful. She still is one beautiful little girl.
However, there are times when people do stare at her. There are time when I know by the look in their faces that they are trying to figure out what is "different" about my little girl. I do believe the older Nichole gets, the easier it is to notice her facial characteristics of Down syndrome. I have gone through many stages as I learn to deal with the staring. First, I wanted to hide her and protect her. Then, I wanted to say, "How dare you stare at my baby! She has Down syndrome so what!" or even say, "What are you staring at!?"
See, the truth is, before I had Nichole, I would secretly stare too. I was not being rude, or mean, I was just being curious. I never had ill intentions when staring, I was just very ignorant about "different" people. I think it is safe to assume that most people are also curious and simply don't know much about differences. Some people are rude, and some people are mean. Thankfully, I have not personally encountered people like that.
What I do now when older kids or adults begin to stare, is engage them in conversation. I know they do not mean to be rude, and I know they are curious. I like to make eye contact and I always ask the same question, "She is pretty cute, isn't she?" Sometimes this questions surprises people, some might turn away, but most people (at least those I have encountered) are faced with an opportunity. They can stop staring and actually look at Nichole. I have given them permission to look closely at her, and see her beauty. I have told communicated to them that it is okay to look at her beautiful little face. After a while of people looking at her, I usually get something like, "Yes, yes she really is beautiful." Some might be brave enough to ask questions, and I really appreciate it when people do ask about Nichole or Down syndrome.
As for children, I have not had any child ask a question that deep down hurt. Ellie, my oldest, does a pretty good job educating her friends. The only thing I get from some kids is why Nichole cannot talk. I tell them that she can, we just don't understand her, which is why she also talks with her hands and uses sign language. No kid has ever told me that she looks different. When it happens, I probably will blog about it! Ha!
And remember that if you have any questions about Down syndrome, I will be answering them this month as it is Down syndrome awareness month.