Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What not to say to a parent of a child with special needs, my take on it

It seems to be all the rage these days for parents of kids with special needs to write blog posts stating their opinions on what to say, or not to say, in regards to their children with SN.

Here's my take on the subject:


When did we, the SN parents of the world, get to tell other people how to talk to us? I mean honestly, unless you are being outright rude and mean (for example I will be forced to confront you if you use the word, "retarded" in front of me), I have no right to tell you what to say to me. And, in my own personal opinion, all of these well intentioned blog posts are doing the opposite of what the authors of them are intending. It is furthering the divide between parents of kids with SN and the rest of society, not bridging it. I mean, who would want to strike up a conversation with someone when there seems to be so very many things that they are not "allowed" to say to us lest they inadvertently offend us?

And let's face it, it can be a little intimidating to talk to someone who doesn't talk back or who you're not sure of their ability to communicate. If someone is making the effort, even if it is a bit clumsy and awkward, to talk to Tess, I am not going to berate them and tell them they are doing it wrong. Frankly, I am just happy that Tess is being acknowledged because so many times people act as if she isn't even there.

So go ahead, ask me questions if you're not sure what to say or how to approach Tess. Ask me anything within reason and I will gladly tell you probably more than you ever wanted to know about Tessie. And don't worry that I am going to be offended if your child is staring. It can be confusing for kids to see people who need wheelchairs, or make strange noises or odd motions with their hands. They will follow your lead with it so if you are nervous and "shushing" them and making them feel bad for being curious, they will be less likely to want to include our kids later when they see each other in social settings like school or the playground because they were told to "stop staring" and "don't ask that" as if our kids are too different to be approached. Encourage your child to come over and say, "Hi" and even ask questions if they have them. Kids are almost always staring out of simple curiosity and when allowed to ask questions, are very accepting.

Then there are the "rules" of not saying certain cliched phrases to us. No, "God only gives special kids to special parents" or "I could never be as strong as you." Yes, there are days when I hear those and want to scream at the person saying them that they have no idea what they are talking about. Thankfully, most days I can hear those cliches and just nod and smile or joke with them about it because people are saying them to me in an attempt to make me feel better, not bad. Got that? BETTER not bad.

Long story short, we, the parents of kids with SN, need to lighten up just a bit and stop trying to set rules on how we can be talked to. Most people aren't trying to be offensive, they are trying to be kind. How about we be kind in return and allow them a little latitude, not a lot of rules.