The Simon Heng column

I recently met an old acquaintance: he is a burns survivor, whose
scarring is impossible to miss. In the 12 years since we last saw
each other he has acquired a family. A thought struck me: how does
his daughter deal with the fact that her father looks different
from most people? It took me a while to realise that others might
ask my children the same question.

A few years ago my son was shopping with me. He asked me why people
were looking at us. At the time, I said that society wasn’t used to
the idea of wheelchair users having children of their own, and that
people tended to look at unexpected things. Like most
seven-year-olds, he said he didn’t like being stared at. Recently,
I asked my daughter, who is nine, what she thought was different
about having a disabled dad and she, too, didn’t like it when
people looked at us. She didn’t like having to wait around for me –
it can take me up to 10 minutes to get a coat on.

On the plus side, my disability meant that I couldn’t check up on
her so easily – we all want our privacy. We often reach the front
of queues quickly, get good parking spaces and have a great view of
football matches. My son now sees our life as perfectly normal,
except that he’s amused when well-intentioned strangers misjudge
the situation in trying to be helpful.

Young carers lead exceptional lives, but can often miss out on the
educational and life opportunities that others take for granted.
But what effect does it have on children to just have a parent with
a disability of any kind? Children can be deliberately cruel to
each other, and will pick on anything unusual, as we all know from
our own childhoods. Adults can cause as much misery, albeit often

I believe that, in some ways, my kids have grown up with an
acceptance of difference. However, I wonder if they feel they have
missed out in some way.

l In a previous column, my allegiance to Aston Villa was edited to
West Brom. While in no way implying criticism of support for that
football team, I would like to set the record straight. (I suspect
there is a West Brom fan in the Community Care editorial

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