What Not To Say To Parents Of Children With Special Needs

March 6, 2016
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Raising a child with special needs can be a challenging — and sometimes isolating — experience.

Whether it is an autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD,) or something else entirely, there are so many types of physical, developmental and mental disabilities that each come with their unique sets of demands.

Fiends, family and even strangers might mean well, but their comments or questions can come off as insensitive and even downright rude at times. Here are a few things  to avoid saying  to parents of children with special needs:

“But she looks so normal”: As one mom explains in this article from HuffPost Parents, this comment implies children with special needs are “abnormal” or “wrong.” Although a child may have mental, physical or medical challenges, it doesn’t mean she is wrong in any respect. Plus, not all disabilities are obvious at a glance. Even if a child with special needs seems “normal,” chances are it took a lot of effort, therapy and setbacks for him to reach the point where he “looks fine” to strangers.

“Is she doing this yet?” Children with special needs often meet milestones later than the average child. Whether it’s walking, talking, speaking, reading, or more, asking parents about these developmental achievements can serve as a stinging reminder that their child’s delay. As a mom with a son who has special needs points out in this article, these parents are already hyper-aware of when their children “should be” walking, talking, etc.

“Isn’t he too old for that?” To someone who isn’t familiar with a child’s special needs, it might seem odd to see an older child with a sippy cup, a pacifier or even diapers. Again, reminding parents that their child isn’t following a traditional developmental timeline isn’t the best way to appease your curiosity.

“Will he have to live with you for the rest of his life?” This is something parents of children with special needs already think about and may struggle with on a regualr basis. Many parents might end up having their children live with them indefinitely. Others may need to use special care facilities at some point. Either way, the topic is a difficult one and is pretty personal.

“He’s going to grow out of it, right?” Children simply don’t “grow out of” conditions like cerebral palsy or autism. While continued progress is always hoped for, implying that lifelong conditions are just a phase is insulting.

“God only gives you what you can handle.” Although this comment is probably made with good intentions, it can be particularly frustrating for parents who might be struggling more than usual at the time with the demands of their child’s special needs.

Looking for more pointers on what to say to parents of children with special needs? Check out this article from Friendshipcircle.org for sensitive ways to tackle tough topics.

RELATED: Why Bike Riding Is Being Prescribed For Kids Diagnosed With ADHD

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