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Monday, July 30, 2012

Encuentros: Some other thoughts from our meet-up Thursday…

What they mentioned about the older generations of little people they knew in Spain was very interesting. N’s mom said at first they had found a reluctance by the older generations with achondroplasia to participate in their foundation’s activities. However, they started getting calls from various groups that revealed the need for their help. For example, an architectural firm from the other side of the country called because they needed to alter a building to conform with new accessibility requirements, including accommodations for two workers with achondroplasia. The firm was calling to find out what these changes would be. N’s parents had no idea, since their daughter was still just a baby, and at that time there were no official guidelines anywhere.  So they needed the collaboration of older people to provide appropriate information. So, she said, their foundation has been working to incorporate people of various generations to meet their different needs.

One woman had shared with N’s mom that she had spent years in therapy trying to resolve the feelings that came about when her older siblings stopped taking her to the playground while continuing to bring her younger sister. They had explained, “We don’t want to take you, because when we go with you everyone stares at us.” She also told me that meet-ups they’ve had tend to be with parents of little people because the adult little people told her “We’re tired enough of people staring at us in public, why would we want to draw even more attention to ourselves by gathering together?”

I want to believe that these stories reflect growing up in a different Spain; that Spanish society today is more open to diversity than it was a generation or two ago. I know that the racial and cultural make-up is very different today than it was when I first lived here almost 15 years ago, and I would hope that this increased diversity is slowly changing cultural perceptions of difference and “the other”. If anything, the increased participation of parents of little people in groups, associations, and conferences seems to reflect a desire to situate their children within society rather than keep them hidden, as I’ve been told happened in the past. (I think of that woman whose siblings left her behind- why did her parents allow them to treat her like that?) Perhaps this effort will result in a generation of people who are proud to be part of a very special group and who are interested in guiding those younger than themselves and their families from their own experiences.

I’m basically thinking “out loud” here, and trying to sort out information as I come across it. I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections on these subjects. What am I getting wrong? What information am I missing? 

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