Think Before You Speak
9 Things Never to Say to a Parent of a Special Needs Child
2. "I'm sorry." While a sympathetic statement like this seems inoffensive, it can put the person you're saying it to in a tough spot. As Vanek explains, "How am I supposed to answer that that? 'Don't worry'? 'Thank you'?" Think of their child as any other. "I want my kid compared to everyone else's kids and treated like his brothers and sisters who don't have special needs," says Mary Anne Ehlert, founder and president of Protected Tomorrows, an organization that provides support to families with special needs children. "Ask about the child's friends or her hobbies. Or ask them for a playdate."
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3. "You're lucky you have a normal kid too." Along with "But he looks so normal!" this implies that there's something wrong with your friend's child. According to Marie Hartwell-Walker, a psychologist who works for the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services and author of the upcoming e-book Tending the Family Heart When the Children Have Special Needs, this line negates the value of a child with disabilities. "Most parents love all of their children. They shouldn't have to defend that love." So offer to listen, but don't try to solve what you deem to be a problem. "Most families embrace their child and find meaning in their relationship and experience. They usually welcome support, but they don't need to debate family and friends who have an idea of the 'right' way to think about it."
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