In general, children are a lot more accepting than adults. They see things as more black and white, adults tend to think in grey. I kept teaching for about a year after being diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency. I didn’t update the students about it in lesson times, that’s not professional, but if they asked a question, I’d answer it honestly. Some of their questions were out of curiosity about ‘practical’ AI things, but some questions caught me by surprise to start with. One question I found hard to answer which has stuck with me was ‘do you not find it really upsetting feeling ill all the time, doing everything your doctor says and still not getting better? I mean, your illness can kill you quick, right?’
If adults asked about it, I would answer honestly too. But adults don’t tend to be as direct. They tend to make their own assumptions and judgements based on the information they have, rather than asking and making a qualified judgement. Adults ask ‘how are you?’ and you’re supposed to reply ‘fine thanks’ or something similar. There’s also this unwritten code that if something is perceived as ‘bad’ then we don’t talk about it. I don’t like talking about illness all the time because it isn’t a cheerful subject, but I’d rather have people asking me questions than getting it wrong. It doesn’t help that Adrenal Insufficiency isn’t the easiest illness to understand and empathise about.
It’s when people assume they know the answers that things start to fall apart. What someone thinks is helpful might actually not be. Making a decision on my behalf or cutting me out without asking me what I think, and following it up with ‘I just assumed you wouldn’t…’ irritates me. All that happens is that both people feel bad unnecessarily. My pupils’ questions were brilliant, to the point, and tended to be phrased differently, like ’what can I do which would help you right now?’; ‘What does it feel like when….?’; ‘How do you manage to….?’ and ‘So, it feels like….?’. Most adults won’t ask those questions- few adults have asked me those in conversation. I don’t know why, but they don’t. But those 30 seconds long conversations helped my pupils to understand and empathise, and meant they ‘got it’ better than most adults. Because they had asked their questions and processed my responses, my pupils were a lot more sensitive and accommodating, and considerably less anxious about me and my Adrenal Insufficiency than most adults I come across (NB some adults are already great at this, like close friends). I could be more proactive in explaining to people, but different people understand different aspects, and it would be wrong for me to assume everybody requires the same information. Plus I don’t want to be a broken record stuck on repeat.
My pupils were HD/3D ready with their black and white questions.Having a brief conversation about it meant we were both able to see in colour. I think that adults sometimes need to give their grey, pixelated TVs a whack and go back to seeing (and asking questions) in black and white.