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Think Before You Speak

9 Things Never to Say to a Parent of a Special Needs Child

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    If you know a mom or dad of a special needs child, you probably want to let them know that they have your support. But plenty of well-meaning statements can come across the wrong way. Read on for nine lines—all heard by real moms—that are likely to offend, plus ideas for what to say instead.

    1. "Wow, you must be so busy." You're probably trying to empathize by implying that this mom is maxed out with responsibilities. But it comes across as condescending. "We may have to schedule therapy visits around soccer practices and might even know the receptionist at the hospital by name, but we're doing what we must to survive—just like parents of typically developing kids," says Emily Vanek, who writes about her son's special needs at ColoradoMoms.com. The best thing Vanek heard from a buddy? "'You're doing a great job.' That made me feel like I was keeping it together enough for people to notice." And instead of remarking on your friend's stress levels, offer support. Joni Eareckson Tada, disabilities advocate and founder of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, suggests trying: "You have a group of friends—me included—who aren't going to let you go through this alone. We're here for you!"

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Think Before You Speak
9 Things Never to Say to a Parent of a Special Needs Child
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