Monday, June 14, 2010

The Handicapped Child

I have some good friends who are foster parents. A few years ago they adopted an adorable child called Sarah Louise, who happens to be handicapped.

Sarah Louise is one of the most beautiful and lovable children anyone has ever met. Whenever there are visitors to the house they fall for her beauty and personality, invariably wanting to visit her time and time again. Some people have even bought property nearby just to be able to see more of her.

Strangers pass her in the street and are instantly captivated by her air of serendipity and friendliness. Most people who get to know her have a strange feeling that she could take on the world and probably beat it if only there were a few changes to her environment. Some admire her clothes, others swoon over her mind, many fall for her smile and others just love the complete package.

There's something about her. Really. Yet she has her problems.

One of them is her spine. Where many able bodied people have a strong and good backbone Sarah Louise has one that is sadly quite weak and failing at its very core. Sometimes it's hard for anyone else to see this. It can be covered up very easily by clothes and pretence.

Some Doctors reckon they could fix this. It wouldn't be easy and it might be painful for some time. Parts of Sarah Louise's life have actually benefitted for many years because of the bad spine. These elements would lose the benefits but the cure would enable the rest of her life to return to normal. And of course there are no guarantees.

The single biggest problem is the attitude and behaviour of her foster parents. When they first adopted her they embarked on an intensive and risky programme to try to defeat the infection in Sarah Louise's body. They succeeded, when many other people said they wouldn't. The others tried to help, many even hindered and were seen by her parents as interfering. The reality is that it was her parents who did defeat the infections. Other foster parents had tried, all had failed.

Since then other people have been questioning the methods used. They've been asking if perhaps the methods will turn out to be bad for Sarah Louise in the long term, whether the parents have been successful in treating the symptoms but have failed to deal with the cause.

The parents and their group of loyal friends have been happily accepting donations and help from neighbours and even total strangers, as long as those people haven't queried the methods used. As soon as a donor has asked any probing questions the parents have stuck two fingers up to them and told them where to go, accusing them of having ulterior motives, saying that they should take care of their own offspring first, before they criticise others.

Each time they say this they isolate themselves from the rest of society that little bit more.

And now, when things look as if they're better, some people outside the family are trying to help and yet are being branded as enemies. The parents act as if Sarah Louise is fully able bodied and totally refute any suggestion that underneath what looks to be a healed skin there might still be health issues. They won't let any Doctors look at her except the ones who'll tell them what they want to hear.

Even more people love Sarah Louise now that she looks so perfect. They come to see her, they court her and they tell their friends about her.

The parents feel and act as if the job is done. They're talking about Sarah Louise entering the Olympics, competing with able bodied people. Who knows? She might just do it, in years to come. I reckon it would be better for her parents to listen to other Doctors, to take advice and help Sarah Louise to take small steps first, then look at the bigger ones.

I suppose the crux of the problem is that they label her as handicapped when it suits them, then tell everyone she's able bodied when they don't like what they hear.

In the meantime Sarah Louise sits and suffers.

Or does she?


Chavie said...

Good post RD! Yes, she does sit and suffer, because underneath all the external wellness there's a deep 'infection' that is yet to be suffered, not only in the 'spine' that the parents have claimed to have fixed, but in other areas as well...

But the thing is that Sarah loves and believes whatever her parents tell her, without ever second guessing them. Sad.

aufidius said...

Brilliant post RD! I hope I am right when I think that this is an insinuation to express a concern magnified several times, a concern which can affect millions of people.

I may be right, I may be wrong. But I see a very strong correlation between this post, and some grim things that I see and read everyday.

Or, it may be so obvious that even saying that this may be an insinuation may be seen as daft.

Or maybe there wasn't an insinuation at all!

I am a bit confused, oer perhaps I am seeing this through so many lenses.Very thought provoking!

aufidius said...

Re-read it again this time without munching my lunch and working on drawings at the same tme. Makes more sense now!

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Chavie - Thank you. Though I think there are many who don't believe what Sarah Louise's parents say.

The Auf - Thank you too. You are, of course wrong! Any similarity between the story of Sarah Louise and anything else is purely coincidental. I hope lunch was good!

aufidius said...

Oh shame! I thought you were on about the English football team!

Chavie said...

RD - But no matter what the neighbours think, ultimately what matters is what Sarah thinks, yeah? Maybe any potential Foster-parents-in-waiting should show Sarah that there is another way to treat her problems (instead of doing what they are now, which is bickering among themselves) and convince her to select them as her foster parents. :)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Chavie- agreed, it's Sarah's welfare that matters the most. Potential foster parents should probably be able to put their case forward too.

Gypsy said...

Brilliant post, R. The infection might appear cured, but appearances are deceiving aren't they? A relapse is imminent if the symptoms of the disease are not carefully studied and if the method of treatment does not adapt accordingly.

Thought provoking post, R - written with a simplicity that is sincere and effective. Thanks for this.

JP said...

Sarah Louse , (Sheri Luise as some would prefer to call her) , is actually Sriya Latha  . And that's where one of the problems lie. While the medicine for goose could be ok for the gander , same might  not apply for Sarah Louise and Sriya Latha .

The generalizing of symptoms and applying the general treatment , as  the western medicine preaches , might not have much effect  on SL .
Rather a customized treatment of a proper weda mahaththaya might actually do the trick. No blame on the concerned people who actually  try to help , by suggesting the solution  they have seen before . And no blame on the adopting parents as well if they are only trying  to cure her.
But the problem lies on  the compassion extended towards her.

As for Sarah , while the whole world look at  her still as the crippled girl she once was , all she seem to be asking is to treat her as a normal person . As an equal. Give her the benefit of the chance that she could win her race at the Olympics

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Gypsy - Thank you, but "simplicty"? It took me ages to think of all that!

JP - I agree with much of what you say. But I reckon that's it's more the parents than SL who are asking for her to be treated as normal. If they want her to be treated as normal then they're going to have to let her be examined by all the Doctors instead of just the ones who say what they want to hear.