I am so excited to have my friend, Crady, over at outManned guest post for me today. She is someone I admire and respect greatly, and a real-life friend. Her husband and my husband grew up together and have stayed close throughout the years. Although, I have only met Crady in person once, due to land distance, I feel like we have so many things in common. One of those is having cute kids! Meet Crady and her family:
I am so honored to be guest blogging at Spit and Sparkles. Steffany’s blog, kids, and family are so cute! And I could not imagine having twins! She rocks!
Well, now that you know a bit about me and Cooper, let’s get to it: What to say/not to say to a parent of a child with special needs.
What NOT to Say:
2. “Well at least you have _____ (insert name of typical sibling).” Like Cooper has made me a better person, Semmes will grow up with more empathy and compassion for other people. He will be less tolerant of bullying and belittling people who are different. He will learn, at a very young age, to put other people before him. He will have to stand up for his brother, since Cooper won’t be able to stand up for himself. Cooper will make Semmes an awesome man. Also, just like with having two typical kids, when Semmes was born my heart grew. He didn’t replace Cooper in any way.
3. Don’t stare or point. I know this isn’t something not to say, but there are plenty of things to say (which I’ll get to in a second) so there really isn’t any need to be rude. You wouldn’t stare or point at someone with a different hair color than you. By staring and pointing, you are saying that there is something “wrong” with a disability.
4. “Why don’t you spank him more?” “I read somewhere that a special diet will make him better.” Don’t give advice. Ever. Raising a child with special needs is about as close to raising a typical child as it is to raising a dog. It’s a whole different ball game. What works for Semmes would never have worked for Cooper, and vice versa. Also, I know my child better than anyone. I’ve got this. If I want your opinion, I’ll ask. Believe me.
5. “My cousin’s best friend’s uncle’s daughter has the same thing.” Don’t compare. Even children with the same disorder can vary greatly (it’s called an autism SPECTRUM for a reason). And just like typical children grow and develop at different rates (even twins) no two special needs children are alike. It’s just too much to go into.
What to Say:
2. Explain things to your child. Or let me explain things to your child. Children are curious. But once you explain something to them, they seem to accept it and move on much more quickly than adults. For example, I was feeding Cooper through his g-tube (he eats through a port that goes directly into his stomach) at church one morning. A fellow parishioner and his two-year-old daughter came in looking for the rest room. The dad is a doctor, so he knew exactly what I was doing. But he got so weird about it. His daughter asked what I was doing as her dad was trying to remove her from the room. I explained that Cooper was eating breakfast. I asked her if this was how she ate breakfast. She said, ‘No. I eat with a spoon.” I told her that Cooper just eats differently than she does. She accepted that no problem. And that whole exchange made the dad much more comfortable as well.
3. “You’re an awesome mom.” Tell us we’re doing a good job. We don’t hear it enough (heck, what mom does) and it really is nice to hear. My mom talked to one of her college friends tonight, and she told my mom that she follows me on Facebook and reads my blog. She told my mom that I was an inspiration to her and that seeing my pictures and hearing my stories made her so happy. And that makes me happy. And proud.
Having a child like Cooper was never in my “life plan.” But he’s an awesome little guy. Whenever he meets a milestone I get so overwhelmingly happy. I’m so proud that he continues to grow and change. A child with special needs is still someone’s child. You wouldn’t want people to point, stare, ask rude questions, or talk about your child. Parents of special needs children deserve the same courtesy.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me through my blog. Thank you!