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Think Before You Speak

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

Page: 5 of 5
  • 8. "Kids aren't really autistic—they just need discipline."

    "Autistic kids can't control their emotions as well as others, and children with sensory disorders sometimes have big reactions to small changes or sounds," says Vanek. "They can't help it, and most times the parents can't control it." Instead of blaming moms and dads, recognize their strengths, advises Hartwell-Walker. "Parents of kids with special needs sometimes feel anxious, uncertain and exhausted. Acknowledge how well they're parenting a child with challenging behaviors."

    9. "What's wrong with him?" Michelle Turner, a mother of two children with special needs, has had everyone from grocery-store baggers to strangers in the library ask this in front of her kids. "I know that people want to know everything, but sometimes even the parents don't have all the answers. It took our family three years to get a complete picture on my son's wellbeing." As Mauro points out, "I need to guard my child's privacy; there are appropriate places and reasons to talk about his special needs, but 'in public' and 'because you're curious' are not among them." A better approach: Highlight the positives. Say, "Wow, he has such a great smile!" or "What a cute outfit!" "Statements like these will allow a parent a moment to be proud and talk about something special that they're doing for their child," says Turner.

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