We were at a doctor’s appointment today for one of Junior’s specialists. While waiting, a little girl about 10 years old, unable to move or speak came in for an appointment being pushed in a wheelchair by her obviously frazzled mother and her care nurse. The other families who were waiting just ignored her, probably because they didn’t know what to say or do, but Junior ran up to this little girl, grabbed her arm, touched her face and started babbling to her. The girl smiled and started shaking with delight because someone wanted to play with her. The mom thanked me profusely for letting Junior be around her, because it’s obvious that most other people either stare or just ignore her.
I realize that one of the unique challenges of being a special needs parent is that most people don’t know what to say or do when presented with a child that’s not “typical”. It’s interesting to hear many of the same things over and over. In speaking with other special needs parents, here are 8 of the hardest things for special needs parents to hear.
1. “I’m Sorry.”
Often, when I share that Junior is deaf or that he has sensory processing disorder, people apologize for no reason. Don’t apologize. First of all, Junior wouldn’t be Junior if he were born any different so I’m not sorry for it, and second, having a disability isn’t something to be ashamed of. Being different shouldn’t invoke pity. It’s like saying “Your daughter has blue eyes. I’m sorry.” Or, “Your nose is bigger than mine. I’m sorry.” Instead, ask kindly, get informed, and know that his differences don’t define him.
2. “God Knew You Were Such a Good Mom That He Gave You a Special Needs Child.”
Wait, what? So if I were a worse parent God would have given me a typical child?
I trust God with my life, and that means accepting that His ways are above my ways, and that He chose this path for me because it was the best path for me. Not because I was “too good” or not good enough.
3. “How Do You Handle It? I Couldn’t.”
Yes, you could. You would rise to the occasion and realize that you’re stronger than you know. You do what you have to do, plain and simple.
4. “I Don’t Care, As Long As My Future Children Are Healthy.”
I’ve been there. I’ve said that more than once while pregnant with both of my children. But guess what? Even if you do have a child born with a disability, you’ll still love him or her more than anything, and you’ll realize that there are many incredible gifts that a special needs child can give. Eternal gifts like hope, joy, patience, and peace that you wouldn’t trade for anything.
5. “My Cousin’s Friend’s Sister’s Son Has ________”
I know you’re trying to relate and make conversation, but unless you actually know the person you’re referring to, there’s nothing to relate to.
6. “What’s Wrong With Him?”
Nothing’s wrong with him. See #1.
7. “Thanks for the Perspective”
I had someone come up to me and say “I’m so lucky I’m not in your shoes. Thank you for making me feel better about my life.” Wow. I’m glad to give you perspective, but please don’t pity my life or think I’m somehow missing out on something better.
8. (Staring in Silence)
Okay, this one isn’t something that’s actually said, but staring or pointing is more hurtful than just coming up and asking. You’re not going to offend me by asking about Junior, but you probably will offend me by silently staring, pointing, and talking amongst yourselves.
Contrary to popular belief, “special parents” do not get “special kids”. Special kids make special parents.
Read Junior’s Story HERE