3. Why is he acting that way? He looks normal.
Yes. Some disabilities don’t have visible markings. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Parents of children with special needs shouldn’t have to prove their children have a disability to strangers.
“If I’m feeling charitable, I give them a short explanation,” said one parent of a child with special needs. Another parent said she takes the time to educate others about her son’s disability.
4. Have you tried (fill in the blank)?
Strangers will recommend vitamin therapy and exercise. Tell us to avoid certain medicines or medical procedures. The amount of advice from non-professionals is unbelievable. Every parent wants the best for their child. That’s why we speak to specialists who know about our child’s special needs. We also talk to special education teachers and parents of children with special needs.
5. Be happy that your child isn’t talking.
I really did hear this one. My child didn’t talk until he was almost five. I was told to be happy because when he starts talking I won’t want him to. (Oh, the things strangers say!)
That’s followed by “how do you know what he wants?” When he was younger, he didn’t have words, but he communicated through actions. It’s a lot like when toddlers start to speak and only their moms can understand them. Just because he didn’t use words, didn’t mean he couldn’t communicate his wants or needs.
6. You’re amazing. I don’t know how you do it.
No, it’s not a compliment. All children have issues. “Telling a parent that they’re amazing reinforces that my kid is hard to handle,” Simons said.
7. Maybe your child will outgrow his disability.
This implies that there is something wrong with your child. Some high-functioning children will obviously manage their lives better than children with more severe disabilities. My kid will always be autistic.
8. What about his future?
Honestly, before my child was born, I envisioned him going to college. I’m not so sure. I’m also not sure if college is right for everyone. My brother spent a year at college and left to become a cabinet maker. He loves his job and is good at it.
Most parents worry about their child’s future. Sharing stories about adults with special needs who can’t manage on their own should be kept to yourself.
9. Don’t stare.
We’ve all been taught it’s not polite. It makes us and our kids comfortable.
10. Don’t question my child’s intelligence.
He may approach a problem differently. That doesn’t make him wrong or slow.
So what should you say to parents of special needs children? Ask us how we are and if we need any help. You can also inquire about our children’s accomplishments. We’re proud of our kids and like talking about them.
For parents of children with special needs, Leigh Kolodny-Kraft, LCADC, CSAT-C, suggests that if you’re feeling generous, you can explain to strangers and family members who make off-handed comments that your child is not neurotypical, broken, or damaged. “They’re neurodiverse and live in the world with differences that need to be respected.”
February 27, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN