Yes! So true!
I have so many examples of kids in my life who have never been around crutches or a wheelchair before and when I introduce them (positively and naturally) all of their reactions have been positive.
When my second youngest brother was in second grade, his class read a story about a child who used a wheelchair. Afterward, he raised his hand and told his teacher and classmates that “my sister uses a wheelchair, and she’s just the same as everybody else.”
The first time I looked after a particular 7 year old, he asked me, “Can you play catch?” when we went outside. I said, “I can, if I kneel.” And I was so pleasantly surprised when he said, “Then I’ll kneel, too.” And we played catch. He was never comfortable checking out my chair, and didn’t want to sit on my lap because he was afraid he would “crush me.” In that case, I didn’t push him. Not every kid is going to be comfortable being hands on with a wheelchair. That’s fine, too.
I looked after a 4 year old a few times, who was fascinated by my wheelchair and my crutches. I emphasized that neither were toys, but allowed her to walk with my crutches when I wasn’t using them, and sit on my lap in my chair. She really wanted to push the chair by herself. When she caught sight of a neighbor of mine with a limb difference she asked about it. I answered honestly and straight-forwardly. ”Some people have two legs, and some people have one leg.” She easily accepted this, and apparently went home and proceeded to “play wheelchair” with all of her dolls, pushing them in strollers like it was the most natural thing ever.
When my youngest brother was three years old, he surprised me by being the first of my siblings who ever asked me why I used crutches. My other two brothers never asked, and I honestly never expected to BE asked by a sibling, especially one so young. But I told him “Because my legs aren’t as strong as yours, but that’s okay.” From then on, he adorably repeated, “Your legs not as strong as mine, but it’s okay!” with a big smile, and lots of encouraging nodding.
A friend’s almost 3 year old is a bit hesitant around my wheelchair but is fascinated by my seatbelt and loves to buckle and unbuckle it. She doesn’t want to sit on my lap, or push the chair, but is comfortable exploring the brakes and the seatbelt.
A friend’s 2-year-old, who I’ve babysat since she was 7 months old has always been naturally curious. She loves my seatbelt, and figured out quickly how to buckle and unbuckle it. She likes to push the chair from behind. She’s also been known to come to me, and stand in front of me, staring with an unflinching gaze. I’ll ask if she wants to sit on my lap and she’ll nod “yes.” She not only is comfortable sitting with me but understands that we need to wear the seatbelt to be safe when we’re moving. She loves pretending that we are going to “work” and then coming back “home.” (A game where I push us from the living room to the kitchen and back.) She’s also been known to get in my chair when I’m not in it. I love how comfortable she is around it, and me.