As the parent of a special needs child, people have said many things to me. Some of those things make me cringe inside. Some of those things make me want to scream instead of smiling politely.
The following are just four common ones and an easy alternative that helps us:
1. GOD DOESN’T GIVE YOU MORE THAN YOU CAN HANDLE.
This was a big one for me. When you’re in the middle of a storm you don’t feel like you are handling anything. You are tired of trying to handle everything.
Instead tell them you can’t imagine what they are going through. Tell them that God helps them handle what they are given. Tell them He puts people in their lives to help and they don’t have to walk this alone.
2. LET ME KNOW IF YOU NEED ANYTHING or WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP
This is another big one. People honestly mean well. Parents of special needs children are often so overwhelmed they don’t even know what they need. And most aren’t going to ask for help.
Instead, if you really want to help, tell them a day you are off & that you want to help. Tell them you want to learn how to care for their child so they can have a break. It might be scary but most of these parents didn’t know any more than you did before their child was born. I’m sure they would love to have an afternoon to spend with their other children or go grocery shopping. Offer to pick up their laundry & do it and bring it back. If you really want to help, be persistent. You may have to ask a few times before they finally say yes. Most parents of special needs kiddos don’t want to burden others with their stuff.
3. WHAT GRADE IS HE/SHE IN NOW?
Although some special needs kiddos are mainstreamed into a regular school system, many are not. My son started getting on the bus at 3 years old. He will continue until he turns 21. There is no specific grade. Kids are put in classrooms according to their ability more than their age. When asked that question I usually just pick whatever grade is one year below my oldest. Except then he will be in 12th grade for several years.
Instead ask how they like school this year. Ask if they have new teachers and if they do ask how that adjustment is going. Ask how their IEP meeting went (educate yourself if you don’t know what that is). Ask how they like riding the bus.
4. I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU DO IT
Guess what—we don’t either. Most days we don’t feel like we are doing it. We feel like we are barely treading water. Some days it seems if one more thing happens we will lose it. Some days we do lose it. We cry ourselves to sleep. We feel like a failure.
Instead–tell those parents what an amazing job they are doing. Tell them they are a great mom. Tell them there is no way you could understand what they are going through but you can see they are doing a great job. Remind them that loving that child is the best thing they can do as a mom. Remind them that at the end of the day, their child feeling loved is all that matters.
As a single mom of a special needs child…trust me it’s hard. You feel isolated. You feel alone. People don’t understand but we don’t expect them to. People don’t know what to say.
Being silent or looking the other way is the worst thing you can do to these parents. Treat that child as you would any other child. Say hello to them and interact with them as much as you would their sibling or another child.
We just want normal–whatever that is. We just want to know that we are doing a good job raising these kids. We just want our kids to feel loved and accepted.