5 things you should NEVER say to the mother of a special needs child

C.M. Denis

1. “Why can’t you control your child?” - Um, because I have a child, not a dog. My child is as “controlled” as she is capable of being and if she is screaming inappropriately, it is because she is overwhelmed by the input she is getting from the world around her. She can’t help her meltdown, any more than you can help screaming if you are in pain. The world is sometimes painful for special needs kids, who see, smell, feel and understand the world at a completely different level from us neurotypical people.

2. “She doesn’t look different” - Sometimes, truly, I feel like carrying a sign announcing to the world “My child has autism.” In fact, for a bit there, my daughter wore shirts proclaiming, “Autism is my superpower.” She said it made her feel better about going out because people stared at her less and sometimes they even smiled at her. Believe it or not, kids with special needs aren’t that different from everyone else in the world. They still need love, understanding and compassion. Don’t we all?

3. “Won’t you be glad when they find a cure?” - No, I won’t be. My child is sweet, funny, quirky and perfect as she is. I would like it if the world was easier for her to deal with, and if people were nicer to her. I think technology that helps them make sense of the “real” world helps special needs kids more than any “cure” ever could. Special needs isn’t a contagious disease, so why should we cure it? Should we cure all humans who are different from the norm?

4. “Have you tried therapy?” - Our joke is that we have been to the OT, the PT, the ABAT, and now our wallets are MT.

5. “You are a terrible parent” - This one is the worst. What gives one parent the right to judge another? I’m actually a very good parent. I love my child and I always try to do what’s best for her. Sometimes, that means letting her cry her heart out in a grocery store while I calmly go through my shopping list. Sometimes, it means moving to a different neighborhood because the neighbors bully my child and make us feel unsafe. People in the past have been terrible to my child. That’s why she is afraid of most of them. I (and my husband) have never been terrible parents, or terrible people.

So, the next time you see the parent of a special needs child, please just smile. You could even say hello. You are welcome to ask questions, and even to give hugs. We don’t mind that. But mostly, we like it when we are treated with the same respect and compassion you would give to anyone else, because isn’t acceptance a language everyone wants to hear?

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