Jul 032017

Physically disabled children suffer from the gaze of the people they meet and with whom they interact. They are confronted with their difference and are obliged to take up a position against this confrontation. First, through a review of relevant literature the author characterizes the gaze in the relation between a physically disabled child and the Other. The child’s identity is shaped through what is offered by others. At birth a child is positioned in the family, at the point where parental expectations meet reality and the child’s disability evokes in the parents feelings of guilt and shame. The author asserts that the mother’s gaze reduces the child to their disability. To understand this, the gaze is described as objet a (Lacan, 1973 [1964]). Then, the author explores the physically disabled child’s response to the Other’s gaze. Two possible responses are considered: the child may choose to adopt a seemingly passive position, whereby he undergoes the interaction; on the other hand, the child may explicitly expose him or herself to the Other, perhaps even exaggerating their dysfunction. The author concludes that speaking about the disability can help the child to find the words to talk about their own dysfunction and to take up a bearable position in response to their disability.