Carissa Garabedian can be found at her website, KnowDifferent.net, where this post was originally published. There she writes about her life parenting a special needs child.
Parenting advice from friends and family is hard enough to listen to without adding the Special Needs component. Things change when that comes into play. Even though these things are said without an intent to hurt, it still does not feel good! I used to bite my tongue so often I caused cuts in my mouth. I used to worry only about upsetting those who were asking and not hurting their feelings, then realized, that they were hurting mine.
Now, I speak up. And sometimes I do so with finesse. Other times not as much.
Here is a list of some of the things that have been said to us that stand out the most. I have included my thoughts on what could have been said instead. Keep these in mind when speaking with parents of children with special needs.
8 Things You Should Say To Parents Of A Special Needs Child
What You Say: “Have you tried a time out to stop that behavior?”
What You Should Say: Is this a behavior that you find happening a lot with him? Is there anything I can do?
What You Say: “Why doesn’t look like he has Autism?”
What You Should Say: It must be a struggle sometimes that you can’t always tell that he has Autism.
What You Say: “Isn’t he able to cut his own food?”
What You Should Say: Is there anything I can do to help?
What You Say: “Was it from a vaccine?”
What You Should Say: I honestly cannot even come up with one for this. Just don’t say it.
What You Say: “Can you take him out in public?”
What You Should Say: Are there things you may have to do when planning an outing? Anything I can do to help?
What You Say: “Do your friends ever invite you over without him?”
What You Should Say: Would you like to come over with your son for coffee?
What You Say: “They say you never get more than you can handle, so you must be doing okay.”
What You Should Say: I am sure some days are harder than others, anything I can do?
What You Say: “Will he ever be able to get a job?”
What You Should Say: I hope things continue to advance and more opportunities come his way.
Notice the recurring theme? IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP? Those are the magic words.
I honestly debated writing up a batch of sarcastic replies, but those may be shared down the road!
I have to be honest, writing this ignited some strong feelings in me. I was very easily brought back to the place and time each each thing was said. While writing this I realized that I have come a long way. I also realized that those who have chosen to stick by me during this journey have gained the beauty of knowing me, my son and family.
And, you know what else? THEY are the lucky ones. I will not tell you this has been easy or that it I believe it will get easier, but I can promise you that when you empower yourself to be in control of who we let into our lives as well as give ourselves the right to answer these questions with our direct honesty, we will be a stronger community of parents. We also will be educating so many around us.
Are there any questions or responses you would like to share that you have encountered? I would love to hear them.