These Things Not To Say To A Parent Who Has A Child With Special Needs
1. “I would never know just by looking at him/her”:
It may seem as though you are reassuring or comforting a special needs mom by saying this, but what it actually accomplishes is the downplaying of the daily challenges the child and his or her parents face. The reality is that you don’t understand the sheer amount of effort it has taken the family for the child to reach this particular point. It very likely involved years of therapy, research, tears, smiles, struggles and fatigue. Don’t dismiss that journey with one sentence.
2. “Is it genetic?”:Many factors can lead to cerebal palsy. Certain genetic conditions carried by the parents can affect the development of the brain, so some cases of cerebral palsy are genetic. But genetics is just one of many factors. So although you might think this is a straightforward question, consider for a moment its implication. If the mother did, in fact, have genes linked to her child’s cerebral palsy.
3. “Is it contagious?”:Absolutely not. Cerebral palsy is a disorder, not a disease, and it cannot be passed from person to person. That last thing a parent of a Special Needs child wants to hear is that you are cautious or afraid of “catching” what they have.
4. “I could never do what you do”:It’s probably safe to assume most people intend this as a compliment to the special needs mom’s parenting abilities. She’s a supermom! She’s amazing! You don’t know how she holds it all together! The problem is that she might need you to put yourself in her shoes at some point because she needs help. The truth is she is a mom, just like you, and all moms get overwhelmed from time to time.
5. “I read that [fill in the blank]could help”:
Sigh. This is a tough one. You want to help. You want to be able to relieve some of the special needs mom’s worries. Still, hearing a play-by-play of that article you read once about how drinking carrot juice cured someone’s CP is unhelpful at best. Realize that, as a mother, they’ve done the research. They’ve spent countless sleepless nights educating themselves on alternative treatments
6. “I’m sorry”
These words are not meant to be malevolent by any stretch. And while parents of special needs kids appreciate the sentiment you are trying to say, they aren’t that crazy about hearing these two words in reference to their child. Why? It’s simple: They aren’t sorry. While disability isn’t something they would have wished for their child, they aren’t sorry.