Have you had someone say to you “I don’t know how you do it, I couldn’t” or “you were given a special needs child because God knows you can handle it?”
I don’t know about you, but it drives me crazy!
How I do it, well I am no super woman or saint. It is simple, I am Billy’s Mum and I love him, special needs or not. As for Billy coming to me because I can handle it, well I strongly disagree. Why? There are many children with special needs who are looking for loving foster families because their own parents were unable to handle it.
Those types of statements drive me crazy but I do understand why people say them. Really, I may have said them if Billy had no disabilities. So instead of feeling bitter or angry, I have listed 5 little things you can do, to make a HUGE difference to special needs parents.
- We are used to, or eventually get used to the staring eyes of children. Children are curious. We know that and we understand that. It many cases we also have other children that do not have a special needs, so we completely understand they will stare and ask some questions. However we will never get used to feeling like an alien with one eye, 7 ears and a disease your child will catch if he/she comes one step closer. Now I do realise that most parents feel uncomfortable “for us”, because you see staring as rude. We don’t see it this way when it is children. If you find yourself in this situation, the best way to handle it, would be to politely come over and ask your child to say hello, even go as far as asking my child’s name. Something along those lines will make us feel much less different and will save your child a trip to the doctors to have his/her arm put back in its socket. Oh and I should mention, it is never ok for an adult to gawk.
- Be kind to adults with special needs. Adults with special needs can be confronting. They may struggle with the concept of personal space, and they can be unpredictable, but mostly they are just friendly and so happy to talk to you. Remember these people were children once too and when we see people treating our grown children with respect and dignity, it helps us to have faith that our children will be accepted and loved when they may not have us there to protect them.
- Be mindful of what comes out of your mouth. Now I know we are all entitled to our opinions, but we are also responsible for respecting others. So, before you express your feelings on how that child having a tantrum needs a good smack, remember not all disabilities are visible. Even closer to home comments can be hurtful. Our close friends & family are a lot more comfortable with sharing their opinions and often don’t realise we would be offended by them. So friend, family or stranger please be considerate and hold back your opinion on how unhappy you are that your child has special needs children in their class which you believe will be a disadvantage to your child. Firstly because you will see that a special needs child will teach your child some very valuable lessons and secondly, whether it is my child or not as a special needs parent I will feel hurt to know people can be so ignorant.
- Do not judge me or give me parenting advice unless I ask for it. Many of us are working on several behaviours or skills at the same time, which can be super stressful and draining. We also need to be mindful of the other members of our family. This means you may walk into our homes and see our special needs children doing stuff that most parents wouldn’t allow, such as eating in front of the t.v or eating with their hands. Please think about what we are dealing with before telling us our child should be sitting at the table, as we have become experts in “choosing our battles”.
- Keep the invites coming. Yes we are restricted in what we can do. for example I find it is best to stay away from picnics if there is any body of water close by with warning signs that say “do not swim here”, but that doesn’t mean I will say no every time. It is hard for special needs parents to invest a lot of time in relationships with others. We are time poor. We may be going through a stressful time or other things that prevent us from being good friends, but our relationships with our friends are very important. We love to have time to ourselves, to be us and not us the carers. Although it can be frustrating when the answer is no most of the time, for both you and us, we really need our friends.
So there you have it. 5 simple things you can do to make a huge difference to us.
Do you have any tips to add to this list. If so comment below.