Ask the Patient, Not the Parent

Hands typing on a laptop keyboard

To The Editor

As someone who has spent their career caring for children with disabilities, as well as serving nearly a decade at the CPSO, I was delighted to read the excellent article on Ableism by Stuart Foxman in Dialogue.

I recognized the phenomenon of ableism fairly early in my practice when working at the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children (now the Shriners Rehabilitation Centre for Children) in Winnipeg, the Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital for Children and Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre.

The phenomenon of directing all questions to the parents of a disabled child is real and pervasive. We went out of our way to instill in our residents and interns the importance of asking the patient the question, rather than always directing them to a parent. When dealing with a person with a disability, we all have unconscious bias and tend to have innate social prejudices against people with disabilities, even though most people with disabilities are as happy and healthy as people who are not disabled. We only have to watch the talented athletes participating in the recent Paralympics who demonstrated that to the world.

Merv Letts, MD, MSc, FRCS
Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon