Is one-armed CBeebies presenter scaring your children?

cbeebies

Last summer, while on holiday, we took the children to a huge water park where they met their first disabled child.
Daniel and Mia were utterly fascinated with the skinny, young boy racing around in his bright red swimming trunks. He had just one arm and only three fingers on his other hand.

At first they were quite frightened and asked question upon question upon question (and very loudly!) and they simply could not take their eyes off this strange little figure who was so perplexing and slightly scary to them.

But we talked about it, I explained why things like this happen and at the end of the hour they were splashing around with him and throwing water at him like he was any other child.

They had totally forgotten what had frightened them, absorbed the “wow, that’s amazing” information and moved on.

I’ve had similar experiences when they met a girl with Down’s Syndrome (who is now my son’s go-to girl when he’s playing on the Wii at after school club because “she’s the best”) and a girl in Daniel’s class who has a growth problem.

It has never ever been an issue, but a learning experience and both of my children are happy to listen and understand.

Which is why I was utterly floored when I read that the BBC has received a flurry of complaints about a new children’s TV presenter who has one arm because she is scaring youngsters and is not suitable to appear on the show.
What? Are these people serious?

I must admit I hadn’t noticed her disability at first (her arm is missing from the elbow down) but only realised when Dan said: “look mummy, that lady’s like our friend from holiday.”

Other than that she is like every other children’s TV presenter – bright, slightly too perky and all about the fun, fun, fun!

But the BBC has apparently recieved 9 formal complaints about Cerrie Burnell, a mother of a four-month-old daughter, who was born with one arm.

Some messageboard comments became so vitriolic that they had to be removed.

One wrote: ” ‘Is it just me, or does anyone else think the new woman presenter on CBeebies may scare the kids because of her disability?”

While another said he wouldn’t let his daughter watch because he was worried it would give her nightmares.

I read all this and my heart sank. How desperately desperately sad.
What kind of message is that passing on to our children?
Is it really that difficult to explain disability to a child?
We don’t all grow up looking the same and children need to know that from a very young age.

But then I wondered, is it too much for children to see at such a young age (children as young as 2 watch the show)? Or should we be celebrating in Cerrie’s success and using her as a means of education?

I would be really interested to hear your views on this.

This entry was posted in Film/TV. Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Is one-armed CBeebies presenter scaring your children?

  1. b says:

    HeyEverybody is entitled to a viewpoint, but it is downright rude and bigoted to be vile about somebody else whether it be about disability, race, colour,etc and these are the adults!! We have been lucky that we have been in the position where we have been able to travel with the kids and that they have met people from all walks of life in various forms and personally I think it helps create a nicer child if they can appreciate that we are not all made the same way. But unfortunately this attitude has to come from the parents, and if the parents can not deal with it how can a child be expected to. How you dealt with it with your own children is how it should be done, patiently answering questions so that reassurance is given to the children. Sorry for the rant!

  2. b says:

    HeyEverybody is entitled to a viewpoint, but it is downright rude and bigoted to be vile about somebody else whether it be about disability, race, colour,etc and these are the adults!! We have been lucky that we have been in the position where we have been able to travel with the kids and that they have met people from all walks of life in various forms and personally I think it helps create a nicer child if they can appreciate that we are not all made the same way. But unfortunately this attitude has to come from the parents, and if the parents can not deal with it how can a child be expected to. How you dealt with it with your own children is how it should be done, patiently answering questions so that reassurance is given to the children. Sorry for the rant!

  3. Tara says:

    @B: You rant away! it's quite mild compared to the torrent of words that fell out of my mouth when I read about it.

  4. Tara says:

    @B: You rant away! it's quite mild compared to the torrent of words that fell out of my mouth when I read about it.

  5. Noble Savage says:

    If someone's kid is "too young" to have differences amongst people explained to them, perhaps they're too young to watch tv? Just a thought.

  6. Noble Savage says:

    If someone's kid is "too young" to have differences amongst people explained to them, perhaps they're too young to watch tv? Just a thought.

  7. Turf Dad says:

    It's always something. I remember when some group here in the states was worried about one of the TeleTubbies being gay. Ultimately the parents could just turn of the TV or change the channel if they are too stupid to explain it to the kids. It would be a shame if the BBC caved in to a few idiots.

  8. Turf Dad says:

    It's always something. I remember when some group here in the states was worried about one of the TeleTubbies being gay. Ultimately the parents could just turn of the TV or change the channel if they are too stupid to explain it to the kids. It would be a shame if the BBC caved in to a few idiots.

  9. Iota says:

    I think we should act like Cerrie is a professional doing a good job. If she was in a wheelchair (like Penny in Balamory), would it be less scary for kids? I can't see any reason at all why she shouldn't be a presenter, but I also hope she got the job for her ability, not so that she could be a token disabled person on kids' TV.By and large, kids are more relaxed about these things than adults.

  10. Iota says:

    I think we should act like Cerrie is a professional doing a good job. If she was in a wheelchair (like Penny in Balamory), would it be less scary for kids? I can't see any reason at all why she shouldn't be a presenter, but I also hope she got the job for her ability, not so that she could be a token disabled person on kids' TV.By and large, kids are more relaxed about these things than adults.

  11. Thames says:

    The more children are exposed to it, the more passe it will be. We should also put fat women on television so I wouldn't feel so bad.

  12. notSupermum says:

    It's a very sad indictment of our society when grown adults still can't deal with people's disabilities. And we wonder why there are still ignorant bigots around, but it's because they have learned this behaviour from their parents and pass it down to their own children.When I was at primary school there was a class of children with thalidomide and I got used to seeing various degrees of disability from a young age. Later in life I also worked for a charity supporting adults with disabilities, and was amazed and outraged at some people's attitudes. Listening to these disabled people's experience of life was often humbling and horrifying.I now work in a school with a Special Educational needs unit where children with both physical and learning disabilities attend. My own children come to the school to help out on various occasions and are used to playing and mixing with children of all backgrounds and abilities. I believe this has made them much more compassionate and understanding, and they can now talk about disability in a mature way.I have heard some parents talk about our special needs children and say things like 'I don't think it's right that they should mix with our normal children'. Outrageous!Coming back to the TV programme shouldn't television represent society as a whole? That means people from different ethnicities, backgrounds and abilities should be visible and represented. That's how children learn, and we should be leading them to understand lifes wonderful array of different people. I'll now get off my soapbox.

  13. notSupermum says:

    It's a very sad indictment of our society when grown adults still can't deal with people's disabilities. And we wonder why there are still ignorant bigots around, but it's because they have learned this behaviour from their parents and pass it down to their own children.When I was at primary school there was a class of children with thalidomide and I got used to seeing various degrees of disability from a young age. Later in life I also worked for a charity supporting adults with disabilities, and was amazed and outraged at some people's attitudes. Listening to these disabled people's experience of life was often humbling and horrifying.I now work in a school with a Special Educational needs unit where children with both physical and learning disabilities attend. My own children come to the school to help out on various occasions and are used to playing and mixing with children of all backgrounds and abilities. I believe this has made them much more compassionate and understanding, and they can now talk about disability in a mature way.I have heard some parents talk about our special needs children and say things like 'I don't think it's right that they should mix with our normal children'. Outrageous!Coming back to the TV programme shouldn't television represent society as a whole? That means people from different ethnicities, backgrounds and abilities should be visible and represented. That's how children learn, and we should be leading them to understand lifes wonderful array of different people. I'll now get off my soapbox.

  14. Potty Mummy says:

    I saw this too, and couldn't believe what I was reading. The people complaining are absolute nutcases. We don't live in a sanitised world – thank god. It's only natural to want to wrap your child up in cotton wool, but the only stigma these children will attach to people with disabilities is the ones that their parents do. It's time that they grew up – I bet their own children are more mature about it than they are.

  15. Potty Mummy says:

    I saw this too, and couldn't believe what I was reading. The people complaining are absolute nutcases. We don't live in a sanitised world – thank god. It's only natural to want to wrap your child up in cotton wool, but the only stigma these children will attach to people with disabilities is the ones that their parents do. It's time that they grew up – I bet their own children are more mature about it than they are.

  16. Tara, like you, I can't believe people complained! 'Scaring the children' – what utter rubbish. So I suppose they think that Something Special, which is the CBeebies programme that features disabled kids, shouldn't be allowed either? My little boys love that programme and have never once asked why the children look different.

  17. Tara, like you, I can't believe people complained! 'Scaring the children' – what utter rubbish. So I suppose they think that Something Special, which is the CBeebies programme that features disabled kids, shouldn't be allowed either? My little boys love that programme and have never once asked why the children look different.

  18. Single Parent Dad says:

    I was a little broadsided by this girl's appearance on Cbeebies. But only because I had a very embarrassing episode when my son came across a person with a similar physical state at a BBQ last summer. "That man only has one arm." He shouted as loud as he could. You know, one of those – 'everything-stops' moments. The guy in question handled it well, and eventually after failing to explain it properly, went for a crocodile bit it off, don't get too close, toddler health warning message.But if the BBC had done this last year, I would have had an opportunity to explain this sort of occurrence in relative private.As so often happens, the complainers miss the point completely, and the opportunity that this presents. I wonder how many complaints they've had about 'Something Special'? None I would hope.Where is the button to commend the BBC? We've got to be able to do better than nine?

  19. Single Parent Dad says:

    I was a little broadsided by this girl's appearance on Cbeebies. But only because I had a very embarrassing episode when my son came across a person with a similar physical state at a BBQ last summer. "That man only has one arm." He shouted as loud as he could. You know, one of those – 'everything-stops' moments. The guy in question handled it well, and eventually after failing to explain it properly, went for a crocodile bit it off, don't get too close, toddler health warning message.But if the BBC had done this last year, I would have had an opportunity to explain this sort of occurrence in relative private.As so often happens, the complainers miss the point completely, and the opportunity that this presents. I wonder how many complaints they've had about 'Something Special'? None I would hope.Where is the button to commend the BBC? We've got to be able to do better than nine?

  20. I am appalled at the complaints that have been made against this particular presenter. I feel strongly that she has every right to be on the television. If children are drawing attention to her disability then this is a great opportunity for parent to it down with their children and discuss it in a calm and sensible manner. That way they all grow up with a greater understanding of the world and the knowledge that no one is perfect, yet we are all special.Ahhh! Typing at speed, this subject makes me hot under the collar. So pleased you have blogged about it.

  21. I am appalled at the complaints that have been made against this particular presenter. I feel strongly that she has every right to be on the television. If children are drawing attention to her disability then this is a great opportunity for parent to it down with their children and discuss it in a calm and sensible manner. That way they all grow up with a greater understanding of the world and the knowledge that no one is perfect, yet we are all special.Ahhh! Typing at speed, this subject makes me hot under the collar. So pleased you have blogged about it.

  22. Home Office Mum says:

    On this very subject, my son said to me yesterday: Mummy, that lady has only got one arm. Why?So I said: some people are born differently. Some people have accidents. I'm not sure why she is missing an arm but it doesn't make a difference does it?No, he agreed. End of discussionSome people really need to get a grip

  23. Home Office Mum says:

    On this very subject, my son said to me yesterday: Mummy, that lady has only got one arm. Why?So I said: some people are born differently. Some people have accidents. I'm not sure why she is missing an arm but it doesn't make a difference does it?No, he agreed. End of discussionSome people really need to get a grip

  24. Adrenalynn says:

    In my experience, young children are afraid of what they're taught to be afraid of, and are usually a lot more open minded than we are! These so-called adults do not speak out of concern for their children in my opinion, but because of their on prejudice and stupidity. Just reading about this made me really angry!

  25. Adrenalynn says:

    In my experience, young children are afraid of what they're taught to be afraid of, and are usually a lot more open minded than we are! These so-called adults do not speak out of concern for their children in my opinion, but because of their on prejudice and stupidity. Just reading about this made me really angry!

  26. Robert says:

    I'm going to stick up for those people who complained!It's society's fault that they haven't been put into their padded cell/put back on their medication/incarcerated for their own good…

  27. Robert says:

    I'm going to stick up for those people who complained!It's society's fault that they haven't been put into their padded cell/put back on their medication/incarcerated for their own good…

  28. More than Just a Mot says:

    LOL Robert!Like Iota, I hope that Cerrie got the job on merit alone, but I do agree that her presence provides an excellent opportunity for our children to learn – just as they do from Something Special (someone give that man an OBE!) My husband has a fingertip missing as a result of an accident – should I ask him to leave in case he scares the children?

  29. More than Just a Mot says:

    LOL Robert!Like Iota, I hope that Cerrie got the job on merit alone, but I do agree that her presence provides an excellent opportunity for our children to learn – just as they do from Something Special (someone give that man an OBE!) My husband has a fingertip missing as a result of an accident – should I ask him to leave in case he scares the children?

  30. I have to say that I honestly didn't notice. When I saw the "taster" item about this on the Sky website I wondered what the hell she'd done to scare children.I think that it's very sad that in this day and age we have to sanitise everything in case it "offends" individuals or a group of people.Children are only scared of something if they are taught or advised to be scared of something. Children who are scared of dogs often leap into the road into the path of oncoming vehicles when they see me and one of my dogs come along – I once asked a child of about seven why he had jumped into the road and he said "my mum says all dogs bite".

  31. I have to say that I honestly didn't notice. When I saw the "taster" item about this on the Sky website I wondered what the hell she'd done to scare children.I think that it's very sad that in this day and age we have to sanitise everything in case it "offends" individuals or a group of people.Children are only scared of something if they are taught or advised to be scared of something. Children who are scared of dogs often leap into the road into the path of oncoming vehicles when they see me and one of my dogs come along – I once asked a child of about seven why he had jumped into the road and he said "my mum says all dogs bite".

  32. Expat mum says:

    For Pete's sake. As has been said by others,- with certain things, children are scared because their parents tell them something is scary. I hope the Beeb isn't giving too much time and attention to these idiots.

  33. Expat mum says:

    For Pete's sake. As has been said by others,- with certain things, children are scared because their parents tell them something is scary. I hope the Beeb isn't giving too much time and attention to these idiots.

  34. I could rant on and on but I won't. It's all been said above!My children watched Something Special foor some time (we love Justin!) and have never been frightened. I haven't actually watched the program in question but surely this is real life.Do these people stop their children leaving the house for fear of seeing a disabled person? Get real!The above was written in my head first and featured some choice words which have been removed.

  35. I could rant on and on but I won't. It's all been said above!My children watched Something Special foor some time (we love Justin!) and have never been frightened. I haven't actually watched the program in question but surely this is real life.Do these people stop their children leaving the house for fear of seeing a disabled person? Get real!The above was written in my head first and featured some choice words which have been removed.

  36. Mon says:

    I don't think she should be on telly, because yes, she might scare children.Oh, not because of the arm thing, but because of the Uber Perkiness. So really, all children's tv presenters have the potential to give our children nightmares.;)

  37. Mon says:

    I don't think she should be on telly, because yes, she might scare children.Oh, not because of the arm thing, but because of the Uber Perkiness. So really, all children's tv presenters have the potential to give our children nightmares.;)

  38. Tracy says:

    What nonsense! My father has had a toe amputated and has a terrible wound on that foot because of diabetes. My son was upset and distressed and concerned it might happen to him, which I suppose is what the complainers are afraid of, but we worked through it. That's what parenting is about, it's not all going to be cute puppies and rainbows that our children will face!

  39. Tracy says:

    What nonsense! My father has had a toe amputated and has a terrible wound on that foot because of diabetes. My son was upset and distressed and concerned it might happen to him, which I suppose is what the complainers are afraid of, but we worked through it. That's what parenting is about, it's not all going to be cute puppies and rainbows that our children will face!

  40. Coding Mamma (Tasha) says:

    I was also shocked when I read about it. R still hasn't noticed that she only has one lower arm. Young children don't really notice these things, just as they don't notice skin colour and ethnicity. It's only as they get older and start taking on their parents' (and other role models') perceptions of society that they start thinking of people as 'different'. I've always been impressed with the ethnic mix among presenters of CBeebies. So it doesn't surprise me that they would have the good sense to bring in someone with an obvious disability. Working in educational publishing, I have spent many years trying (with my colleagues) to ensure that both text and images display a full range of ethnicities, disabilities and non-stereotypes. The more commonly depicted 'differences' are, the less 'different' they become. What I want to know, though, is where have Chris and Pui gone? I miss them – especially Chris ;).

  41. Coding Mamma (Tasha) says:

    I was also shocked when I read about it. R still hasn't noticed that she only has one lower arm. Young children don't really notice these things, just as they don't notice skin colour and ethnicity. It's only as they get older and start taking on their parents' (and other role models') perceptions of society that they start thinking of people as 'different'. I've always been impressed with the ethnic mix among presenters of CBeebies. So it doesn't surprise me that they would have the good sense to bring in someone with an obvious disability. Working in educational publishing, I have spent many years trying (with my colleagues) to ensure that both text and images display a full range of ethnicities, disabilities and non-stereotypes. The more commonly depicted 'differences' are, the less 'different' they become. What I want to know, though, is where have Chris and Pui gone? I miss them – especially Chris ;).

  42. b says:

    Hey check this out saw it on twitter http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29391313/ you got there first!

  43. b says:

    Hey check this out saw it on twitter http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29391313/ you got there first!

  44. Working mum says:

    Single Parent Dad got here before me – how can a channel that is enlightened enough to show 'Something Special' think about losing a presenter because of a disability. I think children are never too young to learn about disability.

  45. Working mum says:

    Single Parent Dad got here before me – how can a channel that is enlightened enough to show 'Something Special' think about losing a presenter because of a disability. I think children are never too young to learn about disability.

  46. Iota says:

    Do you know what I wonder, though? I wonder if the Beeb deliberately generated some comments (friends of friends…) to get a debate going. The Beeb does love a politically correct debate. It would have been very galling to them if Cerrie had started work, and no-one had batted an eyelid. (I don't really think this – I'm sure there really are people out there who think their kids are going to be scared by a woman with a missing arm, and complain. But it did occur to me.)

  47. Iota says:

    Do you know what I wonder, though? I wonder if the Beeb deliberately generated some comments (friends of friends…) to get a debate going. The Beeb does love a politically correct debate. It would have been very galling to them if Cerrie had started work, and no-one had batted an eyelid. (I don't really think this – I'm sure there really are people out there who think their kids are going to be scared by a woman with a missing arm, and complain. But it did occur to me.)

  48. mothership says:

    I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but apart from the obvious disgust that people actually COMPLAINED about a woman with a congenital birth defect – how unenlightened and sad is that? (I'd like to make a formal complaint about brain-dead idiots who should not be allowed to watch tv on the grounds that they CANNOT be allowed to be made stupider for society's sake). I would like to share that when I was at nursery school about a hundred years ago I had a teacher who had an arm that ended in a stump. I actually didn't notice it for ages and ages, we loved her so, until one day I wanted to hold her hand, and my best friend was holding her other hand. I searched up her sleeve for it and it wasn't there, just a nub of flesh at the end of her arm. I asked her what she'd done with it (I was a bit put out) and she said she'd never had one. I had a hard time believing her at first, I was so sure it had been there and so badly wanted to be close to her, but after a minute or two I just shrugged my shoulders and gripped on to the stump happily. Then I forgot about it until this uproar. So sad.

  49. mothership says:

    I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but apart from the obvious disgust that people actually COMPLAINED about a woman with a congenital birth defect – how unenlightened and sad is that? (I'd like to make a formal complaint about brain-dead idiots who should not be allowed to watch tv on the grounds that they CANNOT be allowed to be made stupider for society's sake). I would like to share that when I was at nursery school about a hundred years ago I had a teacher who had an arm that ended in a stump. I actually didn't notice it for ages and ages, we loved her so, until one day I wanted to hold her hand, and my best friend was holding her other hand. I searched up her sleeve for it and it wasn't there, just a nub of flesh at the end of her arm. I asked her what she'd done with it (I was a bit put out) and she said she'd never had one. I had a hard time believing her at first, I was so sure it had been there and so badly wanted to be close to her, but after a minute or two I just shrugged my shoulders and gripped on to the stump happily. Then I forgot about it until this uproar. So sad.

  50. Jo Beaufoix says:

    I forgot you wrote this hon, and I even commented on it back then. I suppose as M hadn't brought it up it wasn't an issue for me till now. Reading everyone's comments again is brilliant. What a fantastic group of normal well grounded people. 😀

  51. solveig says:

    A bit late commenting on this (!)My daughter has never, ever commented on the fact that Cerrie has only one hand, or even seemed to notice it. I've been prepared to answer any questions on numerous occasions but she's just never mentioned it. I love that children can be blind to these things. Those parents were showing their own prejudices.

  52. solveig says:

    A bit late commenting on this (!)My daughter has never, ever commented on the fact that Cerrie has only one hand, or even seemed to notice it. I've been prepared to answer any questions on numerous occasions but she's just never mentioned it. I love that children can be blind to these things. Those parents were showing their own prejudices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge