Many people out there find it awkward to speak to the parents of a disabled child. In an effort to cut that awkwardness down to a minimum, allow me to describe The Way you Should Talk to a Parent of a Disabled Child. Ready… speak the same way you should speak to anybody else – with warmth and sensitivity, sharing the good times and the bad times, keeping your listening ear.

Upset childThat doesn’t sound so complicated. How… normal.

That said, many people out there have the tendency to shut down their brain as soon as their mouth opens, so with that in mind, consider the following stream of comments often heard by parents of disabled children. If these are words that have left your lips, highlight those brain bytes and hit delete in the future.

“You know, little Johnny doesn’t look like there’s anything really wrong with him? Are you sure you aren’t blowing this out of proportion?”
Nobody wants there to be something abnormal with their family or their child. Nobody wants to run to umpteen appointments, have the outlay and inconvenience of therapies and the scrutiny of professionals everywhere they turn. If there’s an issue, there’s an issue. You can’t verbalize it away. Parents of exceptional children are second guessed enough. Don’t add your name to the list.

“Poor kid!” or “Poor you!”
This is this family’s reality. We all have our issues to deal with. Nobody wants to be seen as piteous, draw the line at empathy.

“I heard that taking Omega 3 and Vitamin B12 and Vitamin ZXYFT while running on an octagon-shaped track and cutting out all gluten and orange food might help. Have you tried that?”
Chances are far greater than not that the parents have tried every different possibility suggested by the numerous medical professionals they have visited, in addition to various experiments suggested on the internet. If you haven’t been dealing with exactly the same issue, with success, then keep your miracle solutions to yourself.

“You’re giving him THAT medication? Ohmygosh that will kill him.”
Many parents of disabled children are dealing with immense amounts of stress, sometimes mixed with numerous other negative emotions. You are in no place to add more baggage, thank you.

“Oh my god. Control your little brat.”
If a child is having a meltdown that is completely uncharacteristic to the child’s age, chances are the parents are already mortified and have already done more than you could even fathom to avoid the situation. Can you help? If so, help. If not, just step back and keep your mouth shut. Leave the area if that’s what it takes.

“I know what it’s like.”
Unless you have a child with the same issue, you don’t. Enough said.

reaching outIf you see parents going through extremely stressful situations due to their children’s special needs, keep the commentary to yourself. Unless, of course, you’re offering real-life help. This would include:

  • Would you like me to take Bryce for a few hours so you can have some alone time with Katie? What does Bryce enjoy that we could do together?
  • I’m going to be across town at that health food store on Tuesday. Would you like me to pick up that one kind of noodles that Mackenzie is allowed to eat?
  • Here’s dinner for your family. Enjoy your night off!
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