Accessibility, Advocacy, Friendship, Inclusion, Our Daughter, Our Son, Parenthood, Sebastian at School, Teaching, The things people say, Toronto

Won’t you be my neighbor?


And then I heard her talking to the two young girls that stopped by out front. ‘She has a brother. His name is Sebastian. He can’t talk but if you speak English to him he understands. He says yes and hi with his smile.’ All of this in one breath. I didn’t see the girls’ reaction as I was inside giving Sebastian a drink. I poked my head out to let them know I was there. To say hello. We had just gotten home from camp and Sebastian was both exhausted and thirsty so I turned back in to him as Tallula sat on the front porch. As excited as Tallula was to see him she is also very excited to see the ‘kids’ that live two doors down from us. Two girls and a boy. The middle one, the one who had been talking, then went on to say ‘he’s inside right now, having a snack’. Did these other girls care? We’d never me them before. ‘He’s also 6 but he’s really small, like a 3 year old.’ She has regurgitated nearly everything we had discussed this time a week ago.

Let’s rewind. Tallula sees the neighbors outside playing when we get home from dropping Seb at camp. She leans over our fence and waves while loudly saying hi. It took a few times of her doing this but they [finally] decided to come by. We have a chat and then it’s time for lunch or whatever and Tallula and I head inside. After camp pick up the same thing happens but this time Seb is with us. And there are a lot of questions, mainly from the middle sibling, she’s 7. Older one is 10 and youngest, a boy, is 5. The middle one, A, is very curious but also skeptical. The oldest, S, is very matter of fact. The boy, B, is just sweet like 5 year olds are. They are all unsure about Sebastian. But Sebastian is very sure, and excited, about them.

So we all sat together near the front garden and I tried to answer questions like, ‘Was he born this way? Why is he so skinny? Can he understand me if I speak English to him? Does he go to school? A special school?’ I explain things as simple as I can. I tell them first and foremost that they can say hi to him. That he understands what they say but he can’t talk the same way that we do. He smiles for yes and puts his eyes up for no. He uses a special communication book. Or the iPad. They say hi to him. And he vocalizes back, which sounds like a ‘hi’ much to everyone’s delight. (Including my own!)

Kids are funny. These kids have never met someone like Sebastian. And I think that’s sad. They ask me whether he goes to school and assume he goes to a special school. And he does, I tell them. But after next year hopefully he will go to a neighbourhood school. But he needs a school with an elevator because he uses a wheelchair. S gets excited and tells me their school, the one across the street, does in fact have an elevator. I tell them maybe he will go to that school but that he needs a school which has the right teachers. Which is so true. (And wouldn’t it be perfect if he did; home for lunch! If only it were that simple.)

I want these kids to accept Sebastian. I want them to include him. I can’t make them. But I can introduce them to him. And help them get to know him. And see him for the funny and happy little boy that he is. And hope that someday they will say hello to him before I remind them that they can.


8 thoughts on “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

  1. I hope he gets to his local school. In Scotland we have units within schools where children can get the extra help they need but still be part of their class for things they can cope with. Children are very accepting. They just see another classmate/friend.


    1. Thanks Fiona. I’m sure I’ll be writing a lot about how the process goes this year. It’s been on my mind since we arrived nearly 4 years ago! Kids can be accepting. But the need the opportunity.


  2. That is so beautiful! My little boy is 14mths & I always wondered how I would handle a situation like this in the future & how I could simplify it so they could see past my sons disability and see him for the beautiful boy he his. Go Sebastion! and loving your blog 😊


    1. Thanks do much. It’s difficult to navigate but do worth it as I discovered from eavesdropping. Sometimes I just want to rush the kids inside but it’s so important to me to create those relationships with other kids. I wondered what Tallula thought too about her new friend sharing all about Sebastian.


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