Saturday, 28 February 2009

Arm alarm (2)

A father's letter to the London Independent describing his son’s reaction to Cerrie Burnell's arm is so wonderful it's worth quoting verbatim:

My six year old son is an avid watcher of CBeebies. I quizzed him as we watched the channel.

I asked him if he liked Cerrie.

“Yes, he said. “A lot.”

“What’s the most noticeable thing about her?” I asked.

“She’s got lovely hair” he replied.

“Do you notice anything different about her?” I asked.

“No” he said.

“What about her hand?” I said, by now feeling that it was like getting blood from a stone.

“She always waves goodbye with her left hand” he finally answered.

Did that bother him, I asked.

“No” he said.

Why, I asked.

“She has to wave with her left hand because she doesn’t have a right hand.”

Bored with my conversation, he went back to watching the show.

I supect my son is typical of the children watching CBeebies. I also suspect that it’s prejudiced parents who are frightened of disability, not their children.

Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex.

PS: I've removed the label 'disability'. Isn't that a prejudicial term in itself?

The Independent today features a woman who has been been regularly refused work as a model - because she's deaf. Excuse me, but how does deafness affect your appearance exactly?


  1. Kids accept things more readily than adults. Adults see a person with one arm and think how terrible, poor woman, wouldn't it be awful if that happened to me, wonder how she manages to do x,y, and z etc. Kids don't dwell on things. I think he's hit the nail on the head with his remark about prejudiced parents.

  2. Caro - That's true, children don't dwell on things in that very negative way, they adapt to reality much more easily.

  3. Big Hullablullo about nothing, methinks. Lovely letter though. I can see that kid getting so bored with those questions!

  4. Clare - Yes, you can imagine the son thinking, What's he going on about now, who cares?

  5. It never ceases to amaze me, Nick, how absolutely free of any kind of filters the children of today are.
    Teens particularly.
    They notice the important things like generosity or compassion or humour.
    I truly believe it is only the prejudicial talk of their parents that can distort and twist them.
    I love the letter.

  6. www - It's a fabulous letter, isn't it? As you say, children seldom look through the adult distorting mirrors but see things just as they are. They're much more open-minded.

  7. Still classed as a disibility though, and she is being discriminated because of that disability, I guess that is the only comparison?

  8. Suburbia - This is the adult filter, isn't it, she doesn't just have a short arm, she has a 'disability'. She is therefore lumped with a whole range of people who have 'disabilities' and who are 'a bit of a problem'. Er, no, actually she just uses her body differently....

  9. Great letter. Kids don't notice and if they do, it's not important . . .and frankly it's not a disability. The friend I spoke of in the last post, is ineligible for any type of disability payment or consideration. As for the hearing impaired model. Never heard of anything so stupid.

  10. Baino - Yes, kids just don't think it's a big deal. The idea of 'disability' is full of traps. Legally, diabetics are disabled although they may not see themselves that way.

  11. Whoever made the desicion to axe her should have their hand chopped off - okay thatt's a bit harsh but WTF!

  12. Quicky - She hasn't been axed, but there have been a bunch of complaints from squeamish, heartless individuals. The BBC are ignoring them and standing by Cerrie. After all, she was selected from a very large number of applicants as the best person for the job.

  13. Ironically it isn't the kids we should be sitting down and speaking with - their level of innocence and acceptability is pretty much perfect.

    It's the closed minded adults, those are who afraid, so shocked by abnormality that they choose to ostracise it and perpetuate their opinions at whatever cost... it's those people that need a good talking to.

    It's all so 1950's, isn't it? So disappointing.

  14. K8 - True, it's adults who need to adjust their attitudes. Of course some forms of abnormality (murder, rape) should rightly be shocking. But a shortened limb? Very 1950s, for sure.

  15. Often my sons respond more naturally than I do when they see people with special needs. There is something very straightforward and heartwarming in their approach.

  16. Hulla - Children seem naturally to accept a much wider range of human behaviour and characteristics than adults do. Many adults make very rigid distinctions between the acceptable and the unacceptable.

  17. Yes Nick, I see what you mean.

  18. Good letter! He will raise an emotionally healthy child, not one who is repulsed by other people and fearful that should something happen to him, he will no longer be acceptable in society.

    Good for Mr. O'Hare! He should clone himself.

  19. Suburbia - I hope I understood correctly what you were saying.

    Heart - A few Mr O'Hare clones are sorely needed! His son will certainly grow up with a healthy attitude to people like Cerrie.

  20. I am completely confused by the controversy. Do people stay up nights trying to find reasons to isolate/discriminate against others?

    Of course the child has it right. That we adults find reason to debate is the saddest part.


  21. that says it all really - the mind boggles about what people can get worked up about not to mention what they don't get worked up about.

  22. Gayle - Maybe they do. Maybe there's even a website like that supplies suitable causes for such people....

    Conor - Me too. Why do people waste so much time and energy on such pointless protests? Why not go for something genuinely worrying like poverty or sexual violence?