Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Writing Prompt

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Do you keep a journal - or wish you could get one started? Literary Mama wants to help.

Three times a month, I'll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook and write for 10 minutes. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation - just write. Then let the writing simmer and your mind wander for awhile.

And who knows? Maybe you'll discover a character for your next short story or a theme for a narrative essay. Or maybe you'll use the idea to create a special holiday card or photo album for someone in your family. However you decide to use your journal entry, I know you'll enjoy re-reading it months--and years--down the road.

Today, a guest post from Gary Presley, essayist, book reviewer, and author of Seven Wheelchairs: A Life beyond Polio. The piece below was originally published on his blog on October 8, 2010.

Two Ways of Asking

An acquaintance with a disability said she was the object of the question only boors ask: What's wrong with you?

Anyone with a visible disability has heard that query. After fifty years, I've grown used to it. In fact, I generally try to have a little fun with it. Well, it all begin during the prison break ...

Mostly, I don't reply, or say something like, I'm fine. How are you?

Another friend, a writer, a mother of youngsters, had asked me about the same time how to handle a child who points and asks about a person with an obvious disability. Kids do that, and I think most people who are the object of such questions understand it is innocent curiosity about something new in their child-world.

If I hear a child ask the question, I usually say something to the child before the parent replies. I want the child to understand that a man sits in the wheelchair, a man much like an uncle or a grandfather.

Most parents are going to blush or feel nervous. That's human nature. But what else should a parent do?

First, remember that children are perfectly able to handle the concept of physical disability, are less ready to respond with prejudice, and more willing to accept the reality that people with disabilities are busy living their own lives.

Accept the questions. And, if possible, let the person with the disability respond.

Allow an open discussion. Children instinctively know when adults are evasive.

Be patient. The fact that people can live full lives with a disability can't be explained in one or two sentences.

Listen as your child responds. Don't judge. Don't criticize.

Encourage your child to see the person rather than the disability. It's one more step in your quest to have your child learn to respect every other person's value.

Stress the positive aspects of assistive devices like wheelchairs, braces, or hearing aids. For example, remind your child no one is "confined" to a wheelchair. A wheelchair is not a prison. A wheelchair is mechanical liberation from the effects of a disability.

Please, stay away from expressions of pity. Or for that matter, do not label the person as courageous. And this one is crucial: do not use the person's disability as a negative comparison or a consequence of action.

The best thing to be done is to help your child understand disability, visible or not, is simply one more point in the spectrum of normality.

Journal Entry: How did you respond when your child first asked about the guy in the wheelchair or the kid who walks and talks funny? Describe the setting and the activity that prompted the question.

Then, enjoy this piece from LM Columnist Ona Gritz. She's written our Doing It Differently column for six years.

Karna ConverseĀ is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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