In the States, toddlers watch Noggin, PBS and Nick Jr. Across the pond, many tots tune in to Cbeebies. This popular kids network runs entertaining and educational preschooler shows (Teletubbies, for one) online, on radio, and on television -- and one of the new hosts of the TV network is 29-year-old Cerrie Burnell, a pretty, talented, and accomplished actress who just so happens to have been born without a hand.
Most people would not even pause at this notion. As a matter of fact, I have to stop and ask myself why I'm even writing about it. She's, well, a person. As normal as you and me. Just without a hand. Click here to see a video clip of Cerrie Burnell on the show.
I guess I'm writing because I'm miffed that few British parents are actually complaining to the network about Burnell. They say her disability "scares" and "may cause sleep problems in" their children.
One viewer wrote in a blog:
"Is it just me, or does anyone else think Burnell may scare the kids because of her disability?"
"I didn't want to let my children watch the filler bits on the bedtime hour last night because I know it would have played on my eldest daughter's mind and possibly caused sleep problems."
Needless to say, I find these comments pretty upsetting. I want my child to meet, know, and ask questions about disabled people as much as possible, so I can teach them that people come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. And MOST of the viewers of the BBC program agree. They find Burnell wonderful, and say this is the perfect opportunity to educate their children and teach them not to discriminate.
Really, it's so obvious that it's the parents -- not their children -- that have the problem. Little kids are the most accepting creatures on earth -- something only becomes an issue if an adult makes it one. And not just in England, according to a discussion on talking to kids about disabled people going on at CafeMom. One user describes the story:
"Last summer, my family and I stopped at a McDonald's in Kentucky on our way to Virginia. One of the girls working had only one arm. A child, probably about 7 or 8, asked, very loudly,'What happened to your arm?' The girl responded, calmly, but blushing, that she was born without it.
"Personally, I thought it was rude. Instead of being embarassed or apologizing, the parents just laughed. If that is how you want your children to behave when they meet a person who doesn't look exactly like you, then by all means, shield them from the reality that 'differently abled' people do exist and have the same rights as anyone."
The debate flying around the blogs in England is what happens when your child becomes upset when they see someone with a disability like Burnell's, and is there an appropriate age for tallking to them about it?
I'd say the best age is one day old. Or even younger. What about you? What do you tell your child when she inquires about a person with a disability, either in person or on TV?
Get more toddler talk in Toddler Buzz in CafeMom's Daily Buzz.