Kids are great. They’re intuitive and always interested in and fascinated by the world they live in. It’s funny how different kids react and interact with people in wheelchairs and or power wheelchairs. They want to know how they work, how they move, why you’re in it. These kinds of common questions are cool and cute at the same time because they’re not so invasive as when an adult asks.
When an adult asks you about your power wheelchair, if it comes off more like a question of why you’re in this situation, or they just questioned everything, without approaching you in a decent manner first. With kids, they’re sweet and they’re just trying to understand how everything works. Most of the time, a power wheelchair like mine is new to them. Some kids may have already seen it, or they’ve seen a manual wheelchair but not a motorized wheelchair. So they’re the same, but totally different objects.
Most of the time, a kid starts off by asking me how do I drive my wheelchair? When I’m driving my power wheelchair, I keep my arms to the side to keep me in the wheelchair and I’m gripping it. So if I’m not using my hands to operate a joystick, they are inquisitive and curious to find out how I drive the chair. I drive my chair using a head array, but most of the time, I give them a joke answer and say that I use my mind. With the head array, my movements are very subtle so you can’t really tell what I’m actually doing. So then their eyes light up like a Christmas tree and they’re so fascinated. It brings me and them so much joy.
Later on, I might explain to them how the head array works if necessary. Still, if they’re young enough, I’d keep it to myself and let them have their imagination, just to give them that feeling that anything is possible, you know? And hey, controlling a power wheelchair with your mind…it could happen in the future. Technology changes every day.
The other question I’m sure most of us in manual wheelchairs and power chairs are asked is why are you in a chair or why aren’t you walking? Most of time, I tell them the truth but I try to keep it simple and explain it in a way that doesn’t sound so harsh. Reality is reality and sometimes it is explained in a way that is harsher than what it actually is. Keep in mind to keep it light for kids when you’re talking to them. they’re not trying to be mean or invasive they’re just trying to learn and understand.
We need to keep the children informed. Disabilities and power wheelchair technology is becoming more and more of a norm. We need to let the kids know that it is okay to be different yet part of the norm, because we are normal like everybody else, no matter the circumstances.
About Jesse Cuellar: Jesse is an artist and a brand ambassador for Quantum Rehab®. An accident left him paralyzed from the neck down, so he uses his mouth to paint and expresses himself through his art. Jesse lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and enjoys painting and hanging out with his friends. Click here to learn more about Jesse.