For this article, I posed the question “What do we, as parents of disabled/special needs kids, want others to know?” on a support group for families, parents, and individuals of kids who have disabilities. The responses were much the same, and the same as I’d say, so I compiled them into 10 Things Parents of Special Needs Kids Want You to Know…
1. We celebrate even the smallest achievement. Our kids work hard to overcome challenges, and so do we. So, we will celebrate even the smallest success! Celebrate the everyday!
2. We are not ashamed of our child. They’re our children and we’re dang proud of them, not matter how tough life is. Sure, maybe our “dream child” fantasy was pushed to the back, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have big dreams for our children. We may have some times when we “wish this didn’t happen” to our kid, but we wouldn’t trade them for anything! You don’t need to say “I’m sorry” because we aren’t sorry!
3. You can’t “catch” what they have. Our child is not broken. They aren’t contagious. They are kids…they just have an extra challenge that life has given them. Colds are contagious, disabilities are not. Please remember that. Treat them like normal. Because, really, they’re just normal kids.
4. Don’t expect us to always smile. Life is tough for anyone. It’s hard to watch your child struggle through things, and it takes an emotional toll on you as their parent. We cry, we’re frustrated and we can’t always keep a smile on our faces. So yes, we go cry in the bathroom sometimes because life is hard! We need a break sometimes!
5. We would love for you to be more educated on special needs and disabilities…stop staring! We know that you are staring, so come talk to us! Change those stares into cares! Just because our kiddo throws a hysterical tantrum in the grocery store, does not necessarily mean that we’re a bad parent – more than likely, it’s because something triggered in our cutie’s brain, or there was something that upset him. Just because he may walk differently, or wear a brace or something, doesn’t mean he’s weird or odd! So get educated, and try not to judge. I’ll do the same for you.
6. We will do whatever it takes for our child. Yes, even if that means, being “that parent” who goes to talk to teachers or whomever about how to make things the best they can for our child. We want whats best, and we know you do too. Sometimes, we just have to make an extra effort.
7. It may take my child longer to do something, but that’s okay. Give them a break. These kids work hard at life and just because they can’t write or read as fast, just because they’re a little slower, does not mean they’re dumb or bad kids. Teach your children that it’s okay if their friend(s) need a little extra time on something.
8. We know what’s best for our child. We love that you are concerned and want to help, but in the long run, don’t be offended if we don’t listen. It’s just that we know our child, and what’s best for them. Sometimes that also means that we have to stick to our routine. Even if you are a “doctor” or have “had experience”, we are still their mother/father, and we still know what is best.
9. Please don’t say “your kid looks fine” or any other form of it. You might be trying to be encouraging, but in fact, it feels like you’re patronizing us. Our kiddo may be looking great, but you have no idea what it took for us to get them to that point. Disabilities come in all forms, and just because it might be harder to “see” doesn’t mean that there are not struggles that most kids don’t have.
10. We are people just like you, our kids are kids just like yours. We are all parents, we all want our kids to be happy and healthy. So let’s be friends!
And may I add…
11. Help is hard for us to ask for. We do need breaks, and it’s hard to ask for them. It’s not that we feel other individuals are “incapable” of being with our child, it’s just hard to ask for or accept help. However, help and breaks are greatly appreciated. Sometimes encouragement for us as their parents, or a break for us can do wonders for our souls.
(responses came from the Hemi-Kids & Pediatric Stroke Awareness Support Group)