The first thing people noticed about Nathan was the cute outfit and darling shoes. Only much later did they notice he didn’t focus his eyes. By then, the “sweet” outfit had already won. People weren’t uncomfortable because they had already identified Nathan as “such a cute baby… such a sweet outfit.” He “fit in.” When his disability was noticed, it didn’t seem so bad.

Call it egotism or call it survival, but after that experience, I always made sure that Nathan was well dressed when we went out into the community. I wanted people to see him first, not the disability. Like it or not, when we “fit in,” we are more accepted. Clothes provide a way for us to be like everyone else. Ask any teenager.

I still make sure that Nathan wears the latest clothing styles, that his hair is cut like his peers’, that he looks “cool.” It’s important to him to fit in, to receive compliments from others, to be noticed in a positive way. It’s important for me too. Dressing like everyone else is one way to foster acceptance.

Susan Singler
Mother of a 24-year-old son with retinopathy of prematurity and additional disabilities
Nashville, Tennessee