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When babies who are born with medical conditions grow up to be kids, the most important thing about them is that they are kids. They like to do the same sorts of things that you do...they like to rollerblade, and ride bikes. To watch TV and to stay up past their bedtimes. They like to eat pizza and watermelon, and chew bubblegum and drink milk.

Sometimes their medical conditions make it hard for them to do all of the things that other kids do, though, and that makes them feel different. And it makes many of them feel sad, or mad, or lonely.

Most kids do NOT like feeling different--unless they are the ones who decide to be different. They would much rather you treated them just like you treat all of your other friends. I bet that if medical conditions could talk, they would tell you a little bit about what they are, and little bit about what they aren't, so you wouldn't need to worry.

You would learn from them that most of the time you can't catch them, even if you try to, no matter how fast you can run! And you would learn that it's OK to ask about them when you see them. When you ask about differences that you see, it's sort of like telling the kids who have them that you're interested in them, and that you'd like to be friends. Asking is MUCH better than whispering, or teasing, or being afraid to get close.

Sometimes people focus on what kids with medical conditions CAN'T do. I think that that's a shame, and that, instead, they should think about all of the things that they CAN do. And just like everybody else, kids with medical conditions are great at some things and crummy at others. That's what makes them homo sapiens, right?

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman COllege, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

Last updated: September 10, 2008