My son, Justin, and I were in Wal-Mart the other day when we heard a little girl say, “Mommy, look, a pirate. He’s a pirate!” She not only said it once but at least three times. I caught my breath as I turned to see Justin’s reaction. He had a smile on his face and with a shrug of his shoulders he said, “No, it’s ok. I’m not a pirate.” The child’s mother was mortified and apologized. Unfortunately, her reaction is not the norm.
Justin has an eye disorder called Keratoconus. The vision in his right eye is distorted and blurry, enough so that it is useless. Wearing an eye patch over it helps his left eye to strengthen and focus. He wore glasses as a child and then contacts but they don’t work for him anymore. To make things worse, Justin found out a couple months ago he is not a candidate for corrective surgery; he will have to have a cornea transplant sometime down the road.
Justin wants people to understand his condition. He asked me to write an article about his situation. Reading, information comprehension, and writing, even on a computer, can be a struggle for him. He wants you to know that he did not lose an eye to drugs or in a fight. He does not have anything contagious. He is a big guy but he is not wearing the eye patch for fun or to be scary.
Justin understands children’s fascination with him due to the eye patch. He is more than happy to answer questions, if you, the parent, let him. Children tend to be honest in their reactions and usually don’t mean to be rude or judgmental. Children ask questions to learn what they don’t know or to understand what scares them. We grown ups can learn and remember a thing or two from them.
- Children are going to have reactions to disabled persons in public
- Children are going to ask normal questions about a person’s disability
- A person may have to wear an eye patch for various reasons
- Keratoconus is an eye disorder. It is not contagious.Find out about it at www.nkcf.org
- Children learn from adults how to treat others
- A disabled person may be more than safe and happy to answer your child’s questions. You might learn something too.