Mr Tumble is...

Mr Tumble is ...very good for our children.

By this I mean his attitude to disability. It is a programme which puts disability onto main stream TV without any kind of prejudice. It normalises a plethora of different conditions and, more importantly, gives children a means to communicate with disabled people, using the makaton sign language.

My sister is disabled and has been since birth. This is not down to genetics, merely something which went 'wrong' during pregnancy. She has no specific condition but she is severely mentally and physically disabled. She cannot talk or walk but can communicate if you are willing to truly pay attention. 

As we were growing up, disability was normal to us (as it still is) but it was difficult for us when we encountered other people's attitudes. I could cope with children staring, because how else do they learn, but when adults stared at us and our sister in a derogatory way, how is this justifiable?

As children, we encountered many other forms disability through our sister. We went on holiday to disabled hotels, we went to parties at my sister's school and summer days out. As children, you take everything in your stride and accept each new disability as something new, but nothing out of the ordinary. I remember going to Alton Towers with my sister once (we used to love going with her because it meant we got to the front of all the rides and were allowed to stay on for two or three goes) when a man pushed in front of us. My aunt, who was pushing my sister's wheelchair calmly rammed into his ankles with the footrest. Needless to say, he promptly apologised and went to the back of the queue.

I was lucky growing up, that I never once encountered any verbal abuse aimed at me because of my sister, although I know my Mum has had to deal with such small-minded nonsense. However, we did encounter the glares and the misunderstanding from others. Even now, when I go to a concert or a football match with her, we get stared at. I also would never park in a disabled bay, or use a disabled toilet because I know first-hand how frustrating it is when amenities are being used by able-bodied people. Facilities are there for a reason and shouldn't be abused.

When my son was about nine months old, I remember him trying to smile at my sister and being confused when she didn't smile back. As far as he was concerned, when you smile at someone, they smile back. That was the only moment of unease between them. He understands that his aunt is different to most people, but this is normal for him.

Mr Tumble also creates an easy way of discussing disability with our children. When we are asked 'Mummy, why is that girl/boy is a wheelchair?' we can use Something Special as a comparison, normalising differences for them. With increasing numbers of children being born with disabilities such as downs syndrome, a programme like Something Special could not have more of a place in our society. If we can bring our children up to be accepting of others, no matter what they look or act like, then we're onto a winner.
Mr Tumble

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