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#1 mmmWaffles

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 01:59 PM

When a handful of parents complained that the host of a British children's television show was scaring young viewers, comments exploded on Internet message boards -- some so vicious they had to be removed.

Cerrie Burnell, 29, who was born with one arm, sparked heated message board debate after she was hired a month ago to appear on CBeebies, the BBC's digital children's channel.

One woman who called herself "Chiara's mum," wrote, "My daughter won't watch with the new presenters. She is only 2 and notices the lady's arm has gone. She thinks she is hurt every day."

One father said the show would give his daughter nightmares, and others said their children were too young to cope or even that the BBC was too aggressive in its policy to hire "minorities" to meet quotas.

Since the initial comments appeared, advocacy groups and parents of those born with "limb deficiencies" have seized on the story as a teachable moment.

"I find comments from complaining parents very hurtful," said Julie Detheridge of Coventry, whose 9-year-old son who was born without a right hand.

"Should my son be kept locked away in case he frightens someone?" she asked. "He is no less of a person just because he was born with part of his hand missing."

And today, commenters on the CBeebies Web site were overwhelmingly dismissive of what they called a "handful" of parents who were uncomfortable with Burnell's disability, likening their reaction to racial prejudice.


Groups Decry 'Bullying Tactics' Against CBeebies Host
Burnell, who has a 4-month-old daughter and works as a teaching assistant at a special needs school, called the host's critics "small-minded."

"It can only be a good thing that parents are using me as a chance to talk disability with their children," Burnell told ABCNews.com. "It just goes to show how important it is to have positive disabled role models on CBeebies and television in general."

She acknowledged in an interview with BBC Breakfast Television today that a missing limb can be initially scary.

"Kids come up to me on the street every day, and go," she said, gasping, "what is that? And I would say they were frightened, but I'd say certainly, they were inquisitive, they want to know why it's different, and I think that's very honest, and it's real, it's the truth."

She said all children want is an explanation. "They just want to know why we're different, what [has] happened, and two minutes later, they would have moved on."

Advocacy groups in Britain chimed in to support Burnell and chastised the British tabloids for using headlines like "One-armed TV presenter scares the children," rather than emphasizing what they call discriminatory attitudes and "bullying tactics."

"Having an upper limb deficiency does not make someone disabled, it just makes them a person with a difference, and as such they should have open to them all the same career prospects as anyone else," said Sue Stokes, the national coordinator for the British organization Reach: The Association for Children With Hand or Arm Deficiency.

"We are completely behind Cerrie and hope she can stay strong and not let these few narrow-minded bullies get to her," said Stokes, who has a 22-year-old daughter with a missing hand.

The BBC is also standing behind Burnell. "It's a big task to entertain millions of children every day," said Michael Carrington, controller of CBeebies. "Cerrie is warm and natural and we think that in time all mums and dads and children will love her as much as we do."



Limb Deficiency Groups React
Outrage over the initial parent reaction reverberated across the Atlantic, especially among child psychiatrists and parents of children with limb deficiencies.

"Parents ought to be able to talk about this with their kids," said Dr. Steven Schlozman, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "It's the stuff that doesn't get addressed in this realm that more likely lead to nightmares."

"Kids are amazingly tolerant as long as you acknowledge the elephant in room," he told ABCNews.com. "Yes, [Burnell's] got one arm, but look what she can do. At least she's creating a dialogue.

Many people who are missing limbs choose not to wear prostheses, "as a matter of pride," said Schlozman, who has treated children with limb deficiencies.

"Put yourself in the mind of a kid," said Schlozman. "'My goodness,' they think, 'If my folks can't stomach a healthy and well-adjusted one-armed mother, then what will they think of the nasty feelings I have for my older sister when she gets the last cookie?' and so on."


Most Limb Deficiencies Have Unknown Causes
Congenital limb deficiencies like Burnell's occur in about one out of every 1,000 births. The cause is unknown in about 32 percent of those cases, but genetic mutations, chromosomal abnormalities and vascular disruptions can cause an arm or leg to not develop, according to the Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics.

Approximately 1.7 million people in the United States are living with limb loss, and another 185,000 have a limb amputation each year, according to the Amputee Coalition of America.

"Such outdated attitudes are demeaning and hurtful to people with disabilities and must not be tolerated," the coalition today said in a prepared release issued in response to the BBC controversy.

"Do the critics of Ms. Burnell believe that everyone with limb loss or a congenital limb absence -- including children who have lost their limbs to lawn mower accidents, people who have had amputations due to cancer and those who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan missing limbs -- are too scary to be seen in public? Would these complaining parents ask their nation's wounded warriors to hide from public view?"

In the United States, several children's shows, including "Maya and Miguel" and "Barney," have tackled the limb deficiency condition by including characters with only one arm. On "Barney," a boy named Andy advised children how to respond to other children who ask, "What happened to your arm?"

"Sesame Street" previously addressed disabilities like cerebral palsy and has included scenes with crutches and wheelchairs but not specifically limb deficiencies, according to a spokeswoman for the Sesame Street Workshop.



Without an Arm, He Can 'Do Anything'
Giuliano Lin was born with an arm similar to Burnell's, developed only to the mid-forearm. "It's like I have an extra tool," he told ABCNews.com. "Instead of having two hammers, I have a hammer and a wrench."

The 12-year-old is an expert fencer, and he swims, makes jewelry and knits with one hand and can play the guitar. "I often forget I don't have a hand," Giuliano said.

"He can do anything," said his mother, Sabina Berretta of Lexington, Mass. "The only thing he can't do is the monkey bars."

But as a child, he struggled with fitting in socially, and Berretta, a Boston psychiatrist, acknowledged, "We are scared about what we don't know."

"Despite our efforts to protect Giuliano, he has been, and still is, the object of blunt, hurtful, comments from young children," said Berretta, who practices at McLean Hospital in Boston. "They have stared at him, yelled out loud. 'Hey! Look! This kid is weird! He does not have a hand.' They threw sand at him because he is a 'monster,' grabbed his arm to look at it without asking and refused to be in the same room because he is 'scary.'"

Giuliano said he wished there were more television hosts like BBC's Burnell, who might teach children about differences rather than sending a negative message like, "Oh they look different and can't do what we can do. They're really bad and scary.

"I understand people are curious," he said. "But if they can look at it on TV, then they won't stare when they see someone on the street. It makes it a lot easier for us. Some of us have blue eyes, some have green; some have black hair, some are blond; some have two arms and some of us have one."



'I Have Never Hidden My Son's Legs'
Actress Bahar Soomekh was horrified when she learned of the criticism fired at Burnell. Her 3-year-old son, Ezra, was born with a malformed leg and one functioning finger. In order for the boy to have a better functioning prosthetic leg, doctors amputated the limb below the knee. They also transplanted the big toe to make a thumb, so he could utilize his left hand.

"The irony is I did the Academy-award winning 'Crash,' [a movie] about prejudices, and here it's happening at home for me," said the 33-year-old actress, who also appeared in "Mission Impossible III" and "Syriana." "I had to deal with it on the playground and at school every day. The beauty is that I have never hidden my son's legs. He wears shorts."

Ezra, who got his prosthetic leg at 10 months, was walking by 11 months -- way ahead of most of his peers -- and now plays soccer and basketball.

Soomekh undertands the power of role models like Burnell. When the television show, "Barney," had a girl without a hand, Ezra was delighted.

"It meant the world to my son," she said. "It was the most extraordinary thing. When school started the kids said Ezra's hand look the girl on Barney. It's all about familiarity."

As for the Burnell, Soomekh said parents can help their children by applauding her talent. "Look at how amazing she is. She can hold a book and turn the pages without a hand."

Burnell's supporters seem to agree and flooded the CBeebies message boards this week with praise for her work.

"I think it is great," wrote "Suzz" of Greater Manchester. "TV needs to represent everyone. My toddler was amazed that she can do normal things with her 'shorter.'"

Others said their preschool children had faithfully watched the show and "never batted an eyelid."

"Education is so important for bringing up smart adults who know how to interact with each other in the world," said Amanda Moment, who was born with one hand and mentors children with limb deficiencies as part of her work with the organization Helping Hands.

"All of my life, children have asked me what happened, and it's really a matter of simple education," she told ABCNews.com "They satisfy themselves that it doesn't hurt and it's not scary, then they go on with their lives."

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What do you think? To me, if it "frightens" the kids, then the parents should GASP! TALK to their kids about it.

Besides, she's got like 3/4 of an arm.



#2 JAA

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:02 PM

Why would the parents of these kids want to have to parent and explain something to their kids ... WAAAAAAY too much work. :goodposting:
no

#3 videoguy505

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:04 PM

When the British dude in the video says "CBeebies", it sounds like he's saying "See boobies".
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#4 mmmWaffles

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:06 PM

When the British dude in the video says "CBeebies", it sounds like he's saying "See boobies".

:blackdot: Finally, teaching our kids something valuable.

#5 Leroy Hoard

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:07 PM

I'm not sure if it's worth getting up in arms over.
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#6 Holland Freeze

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:12 PM

Wow, would think adults would react better than that.

Granted, children may initially react to seeing something not expected. Any ongoing fear would not be from the disability but a direct response to their parents reactions.

#7 Gator Shawn

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:13 PM

When I read the title, I thought it was going to be about a TV host who waved a gun on air or something.

#8 IvanKaramazov

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:14 PM

Richard Kimble would be all over this.

 

 


#9 mmmWaffles

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:19 PM

When I read the title, I thought it was going to be about a TV host who waved a gun on air or something.

:hophead:

#10 trogg78

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:25 PM

Kids need to learn what happens when they stick their arm out of a car window.
A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo, and when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells, but naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers.

#11 T Bell

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:26 PM

"That's what happens when little kids don't eat their veg."

/British accent

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#12 HERBERT THE HIPPO

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:27 PM

What's the point...........

#13 HERBERT THE HIPPO

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:27 PM

You really have to hand it to her.....

#14 T Bell

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:27 PM

What's the point...........

It depends upon the attachment she's using at the time. :wub:

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#15 HERBERT THE HIPPO

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:28 PM

Where does she shop for clothes...... at stubhub????????

#16 MikeMan

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:29 PM

My cousin lost an arm and a leg in an accident. His son had pain in his leg and nightmares. This is a tough call. I understand that parents should be able to have a conversation about it but why should they have to at that age along with everything else a parent has to do. I can see having conversations with my 10 year old if Hannah Montana suddenly was in a wheelchair but seeing a one-armed, one-legged teletubby bounding over a mountain just doesn't seem right.
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#17 T Bell

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:33 PM

Right turn, Carrie.

I hipple so you don't have to.

 

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#18 Ozymandias

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 03:35 PM

I get upset when something costs me an arm and a leg.

But making this much fuss when it's just an arm?

Get real, people.
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#19 mmmWaffles

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 03:37 PM

I'd much rather my kid see her than the Wiggles. Something about those guys just ain't right, ya know??

#20 Sweet J

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 04:07 PM

<_<
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#21 T Bell

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 04:11 PM

"In our next story, children in Britain for whatever reason lead the world in counting to five, however they have fallen behind in counting to 10 . . ."

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#22 T Bell

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 06:00 PM

"Mommy, why are Cerrie's puppet shows always monologues?"

I hipple so you don't have to.

 

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#23 Ozymandias

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 06:38 PM

"Mommy, why are Cerrie's puppet shows always monologues?"

She's given up on any effort to be even handed.
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#24 belljr

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 06:42 PM

She doesn't appear to be all right.


on a serious note , I grew up with a kid how had one arm similar to hers and we some how managed to survive. :kicksrock:

He was an ok Basketball player too.

Edited by belljr, 24 February 2009 - 06:42 PM.

I like Homer again


#25 Chris B.

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 06:49 PM

Where does she shop for clothes...... at stubhub????????

So wrong.:kicksrock: :lmao: :lmao: :lmao:

She look out a window and there is like 6 animal jsut lookin at her. When you fart is loud enough to make a animal curious you know probably gonna win burritos.


#26 Statorama

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 07:25 PM

I went boating with a one armed guy once. Ticked me off because he just kept rowing in a circle.

well then, no need to consider my thoughts on this policy any longer...i'll take the opposite of what FBG's greatest fisherman (aka Stat) is having.


the only fishing he does is getting people to believe he is only fishing.


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#27 cstu

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 07:46 PM

They should be outraged considering he killed that man's wife!

All of us are African, some more recently than others.


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#28 Mr. Retukes

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 10:10 PM

When a handful of parents complained

Chuckle.