This particular disabled child was in a wheelchair and looked as if he had cerebral palsy. I immediately thought of Joey Deacon, a man with cerebral palsy (or spastic as we called it then) who appeared on Blue Peter. Wikipedia explains what happened:
He was presented as an example of a man who achieved a lot in spite of his disabilities. However, despite the positive light in which the programme's editor was trying to present his story, the impact was not as intended. The sights and sounds of Joey's distinctive speech and movements had a lasting impact on young viewers, who quickly learnt to imitate them. Joey's name and mannerisms quickly became a label of ridicule in school playgrounds across the country.
It seemed funny at the time. God, kids are horrid.
However, I wondered whether 'Something Special' might be more successful at normalising disability as it was starting on its audience young, appearing in a slot for four- to seven-year olds. I asked my son what he thought about the boy who'd appeared that week. He didn't know what I might be referring to. So I asked him what he thought was wrong with him and he replied,"I think the schoolboy had to stay in his buggy because he broke his leg".
I wonder whether early exposure to seeing children with cerebral palsy doing everyday things and having the sort of fun he'd like to have will mean he'll grow up to regard disability as the equivalent of, say, a sports injury? Or as he gets older will he morph into one of those children from the '70s who think seeing someone on TV with cerebral palsy provides good material for a joke? If kids are educated young enough can they be made to behave better? I guess I'll find out in a few years...