A few months back, Cerrie Burnell was appointed as a presenter with the BBC’s channel for small children, CBeebies. She was born with one arm and doesn’t try to disguise the fact. This led to a small number of parents complaining to the BBC. They claimed their children were scared of her. They feared it might give their children nightmares. They didn’t know how to explain why she only had one arm. They felt the BBC were only doing it to be politically correct, even at the expense of their children.
My feeling was that the complaints reflected more on the parents’ fears, their own inability to cope with difference, their own discomfort with disability, their own lack of communication skills. I don’t think children tend to be bothered in the slightest by this kind of thing.
However, I wondered about my own daughter. She is autistic – very intelligent and high-functioning, but nonetheless, she likes things to be ‘correct.’ She’s not the biggest fan of incompleteness and I wondered how she would react. Well, she didn’t seem to notice at all at first, although she perhaps did and never said anything. The months went by and nothing was ever mentioned.
A few nights ago, we were watching CBeebies together and she said to me, completely out of the blue, “Cerrie’s only got one arm.” I asked her if she minded that. “No,” she replied. There was a pause of about a minute. She then said, “I wish I only had one arm too.”
So, worried parents who are afraid your children might have nightmares – there’s your answer…