When I was in preschool there was a girl in my class who had very short, only partial legs, and also only partial arms. She was born this way. Despite the things that made her seem different from other children she smiled, laughed, played and even ran, jumped, and somehow managed to throw a ball. She and I were often partners for the classroom obstacle course and on her almost invisible legs she managed to fly over that course with speed and agility, run straight through the tunnel without having to slouch, and jump on the trampoline with a big, bright smile. She made a very positive impression on me. Even as a young child, I felt very impressed by her joyful spirit and ability to thrive, regardless of what others might perceive as a “disability”.
At first I wondered if a book about Helen Keller might be too advanced or confusing for a three-year-old to comprehend..but it was not. Of course, I did need to paraphrase the text to suit her level of comprehension, but my daughter did understand after reading the book several times that some people cannot see and hear. She also understood that Helen was very clever to have done so many things without her sight and hearing. To illustrate what it is to be blind, I simply blind-folded Nora and asked her to perform simple tasks. She managed to do some of them with assistance. Similarly, to learn about what it is to be deaf, I put little foam ear-plugs in her ears and then talked to her. Of course, she became irritated that she could not hear me very well. We are also trying to learn the signs for yes and no, and use them throughout the week, signing in each others hands, just like Helen and her teacher did. Currently, Nora does not have any friends with disabilities, but I know the day is not far off when she will meet such a child, and I hope that she will treat them with the same kindness and acceptance that all children deserve — because in the words of Helen Keller herself:
“The welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all.”