I’d like to think my daughter with disabilities always showed up to school looking pretty in her matching outfits and stylish hairdos. But there were days when I was out of town and Daddy was on his own to expose his limited skills at taming hair and matching anything.
I called it her “waif of America” look.
Kids with disabilities are cool, and it helps to look the part by dressing cool.
I probably went overboard sending Noni off to elementary school, never a day without bows, clips, or ribbons to accessorize her ponytails and French braids. And don't forget the stick-on earrings.
Fashionable clothes and shoes for kids who don't button, zip or tie can be hard to find, but worth the search. An approachable appearance warms the way to common ground and compliments among school friends.
So when my two youngest kids came home from middle school with a story about a boy with disabilities who didn’t have any cool clothes, my ears perked up. Influenced by their older sister, both made it a practice to help out in the special-needs classroom, and they developed a soft spot for a new student, Jatinder.
“He’s such a cool kid, Mom, but he really needs clothes, so we’re going to give him some of ours,” they said, heading for their dresser drawers. They reappeared ready to part with a neat stack of shirts, shorts, and jeans.
The good deed caught on when a bunch of their friends decided to pitch in too, and in no time Jatinder had a complete wardrobe. Almost.
“Mom, Jatinder still needs a few things and the only way we can get them is to buy them at the store,” they analyzed. “He needs a belt so his pants don’t fall down because he’s pretty skinny. He needs a pair of khakis so he can dress up and look nice for assemblies. And it would be awesome if he had a jogging suit.”
“I’m willing to take you to the store,” I told them, “but only if you are willing to contribute some of your own money.” They handed over $10 each, we headed to Old Navy, and soon Jatinder was looking and feeling rather spiffy.
The hunt for cool clothes continues as kids with disabilities become adults. When it’s time to be fancy for a special occasion, like a wedding, high-heeled shoes and strapless dresses aren’t options for Noni. Think broken ankle or clothing malfunction.
We stick with cute flats. But sometimes even flats won’t do as the wedding reception winds down and her dancing feet have had enough. “Here,” she throws her shoes at me, “I’m done with these. And these too,” she pulls out hairpins sending her updo in a downward spiral.
She can be a waif when she wants to.