12 responses to “Dear Imprudence: Yeah Hi I’m Actually Right Here”

  1. Static Nonsense

    The “staring helps children develop social skills” letter enraged me to no end. What makes people think that a child with disabilities would want to be stared at any more than an adult with disabilities? That they’d somehow be more comfortable with it? I know I sure as hell didn’t, I hated it! It made me more anxious and paranoid. Children don’t just magically like being stared at because they’re children, they’re people too and have their own varying comfort levels.

    Argh.

  2. Personal Failure

    What the hell is wrong with people?

    I will never forget when I was 5 and my mom caught me staring at a man with one leg, walking with crutches. She nearly ripped my arm out of its socket dragging me away and then gave me a blistering speech about staring at people. I guess not everyone had the benefit of my mom’s sense of etiquette and responsibility.

    As for “I only stare because I want to help”? If you want to help, stop staring.

  3. AWV

    dude if you’re a “people-watcher” you can watch people without making it obvious. wear sunglasses or something. I guess I’m a people-watcher but I don’t just stand/sit there STARING at people in a really obvious way. the only reason people do that is that they have tons of unexamined privilege and they think it’s their right to treat less privileged people like they’re in a museum. it has nothing to do with “valuing other human beings.”

  4. Astrid

    I was enraged by the staring-helps-teach-social-skills nonsense, too. First of all, there’s the assumption that all children with disabilities lack social skills. Secondly, there is the assumption that it is the responsibility of the person with disabilities to handle the staring “appropriately”, rather than it being the starer’s responsibility to stick ou nose somewhere else.

    As for how I handle staring – of which I’m only aware when accompanied by verbal comments -, I sometimes point the sighted person saying “Oh wow, a sighted person!” That may be impolite, but no less polite than the staring itself.

  5. JetGirl

    The comment from the “people watcher” makes me particularly irate. How entitled can you get?

  6. Zoe

    I’m also bothered by something that “Boiling Mad” said in their letter. “My son is not aware of their impolite behavior, but I am.” I mean, it’s quite possible that the boy in question isn’t aware of the behavior, but I’m worried that this is a case of a non-disabled adult assuming that a disabled child doesn’t notice the world around them. I saw this a lot when I worked with autistic kids — the other staff would talk about the kids literally right behind them, assuming that they weren’t aware enough to notice. How is “Boiling Mad” so sure that her son doesn’t notice the way people treat him?

    Or how about these letter writers encouraging “Boiling Mad” to educate random passers-by about her son? Did it never occur to them that he might not be comfortable standing by while his mother chatted away with strangers about his disability?

  7. Paradigm

    I get stared at whenever I go out into public. It’s incredibly annoying. There is no way I would see it as a “teaching moment.” Just because they’re ignorant that I’m a person doing the same things they are (“despite the burden/hardship/difficulties/challenges”) doesn’t mean I have to educate them on the fact.

    And then let’s not forget the people who feel the need to come up and SAY that I’m so brave/strong/inspirational for doing these things. That pisses me off more…

  8. The Untoward Lady

    I agree with Zoe, the mother’s comments were big-time offensive. For me, as an autistic person, her telling us that her child is incapable of noticing people staring at him felt a lot like being told that I was lying about hurt because autistic people supposedly can’t even comprehend emotional pain.

    Wile where on that subject: Learning social skills? Are you serious? What kind of social lesson is he supposed to come away with? I know what lesson I come away with whenever people stare at me: You are a freak and less than human so you should expect to be treated as such. Nice lesson plan.

  9. Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg

    Oh, how I hate that “teachable moment” stuff. Yeah, with my kid or her friends, I’ve done the teachable moment thing, but for the rest of the world, on a moment’s notice? No. Not for free. I’m not a drop-in disability workshop.

    Regarding the staring thing, I have to admit that I have sometimes stared at people (not on the basis of difference) because of the nature of my disability. For a long time, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I would get caught up in the visuals of how other people look, partly because that’s where my brain goes, and partly because I’m usually trying to keep track of the sensory world in one way or another. It can make me look pretty intensely focused, and if I happen to look in someone’s direction, it looks like I’m staring, even if I’m thinking about something else. I don’t know whether all autistic people have “the stare,” but a lot of Aspies do, and it’s pretty much unintentional. Once I realized I was doing it, I switched to looking intently at things rather than people (which has its own social pitfalls, but at least I’m not making anyone uncomfortable).

  10. Norah

    Assuming your child doesn’t notice people staring is like (and part of) assuming your child has no idea that they are different from other people. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m fairly sure most of us have a pretty damned good idea right from the point that we start having to interact with our age-peers.
    It’s a typical case of not seeing a reaction (or not noticing it because it’s not standard) and then assuming there’s nothing going on (also like: if you can’t speak, you don’t think).

    Or maybe it’s just the age discrimination thing: assuming that (young) children are somehow oblivious to everything and have no way to sense anything at all and do nothing intentionally.

  11. Sharon Wachsler

    Yes to almost everything the other commenters said!

    Also, I have been stared at quite a lot over the years and that jerk who said about the people watching made me want to scream. When I have an assistance dog with me, I get a lot of sappy, beaming smiles of benevolence. They get old after a while, but I get that a lot of the stare is because of the dog. When I am dogless, then it’s just the “OMG-what-is-it?” stare.

    I’ve never been good at figuring out how to respond. I LOVE Astrid’s idea! Usually I try to ignore it, but over time I have gotten up the courage to stare back — and I’m happy with the results, so far. I think the starers often don’t realize just how much they’re staring or they think that nobody is going to call them on it, so when you do turn their gaze back on to them in an obvious way, they tend to get pretty surprised and flustered and look away, which is fab. So, that’s my “teaching moment”: I learn how great it feels to MAKE people STOP staring, and starers learn that the freak they’re staring at is Hey! A Human who will call them on their shit!

  12. Nightengale

    What social skills is which child supposed to learn? The stared-at child learns that people will stare at her or him for appearing different. The staring child learns that staring is an OK thing to to at people with disabilities. Than the staring child will grow up into an adult who still thinks it’s OK and we end up with the status quo. I suppose it’s an effective method of teaching social skills that continue to reinforce the current state of ableism.

    The main staring I’ve encountered was as a medical student when I started to use a cane. My classmates stared and stared but none of them said anything. This continued for three years. My response was to treat the cane like the elephant in the corner it clearly was and to get a toy elephant to attach to it. They continued to stare and not say anything. Interestingly, lots of other people commented positively on the elephant (and the flowered cane I mainly use now) so I claim he’s a good judge of character. But I got the fun canes for me, and I am willing to do disability education for me. It is not my responsibility to do either. And I worried that these future health care providers were not learning it was their responsibility to not stare.

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