10 Things You Should Never Say to a Special Needs Parent

By Michele C. Hollow @michelechollow
December 07, 2017

Topping the list of what not to say to a parent of a child with special needs is “I'm sorry.” Instead of being negative, always be positive.

Most people mean well. However, they don’t always say the appropriate thing to parents of children with special needs. Allie Simons hates it when strangers apologize to her when they see her child.

Her child has Down syndrome, and she feels like strangers often pity her. “People don’t need to express regret over my child because she’s different,” Simons said. “They don’t see the fun interactions, her accomplishments, and her charm.”

“I don’t apologize to parents because their children behave a certain way,” she said.

Her friend, Maura Shah, agrees. “My child’s on the autism spectrum. I’ve had people apologize to me because my kid is different.”


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So rule one of the 10 things you should never say to a parent of a child with special needs is don’t apologize. That should be followed by:

2. He wouldn’t behave that way if you discipline him.

Many parents of children with special needs have heard this one too many times. It grates on our nerves. (My son has Asperger syndrome.) When a child with special needs has a meltdown it’s in a totally different arena from a child with a temper tantrum. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meltdowns can be caused by sensory overload, difficulty in expressing oneself, and other sources. A tantrum is an outburst of anger that often occurs when a child doesn’t get his way.


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February 27, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN