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When Someone Asks Me How My Child with Special Needs is Doing 

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
01/18/17  3:57 PM PST
special needs

How do you respond when someone asks you how your child with special needs is doing? For most parents, there’s no simple answer. Here’s what goes through my head.

Friends and family often ask me how my son Ben is doing. Whenever that happens, no matter who it is, I hesitate. You know that feeling when you try to swallow a pill and it gets stuck halfway down? That’s how I feel when someone asks about Ben.

Ben has Down syndrome, hearing impairment, autism, Hirschsprung Disease, Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, a handful of lesser health concerns, and is a leukemia survivor. In short, Ben is a complex kid with a host of special needs.

So when anyone asks, unless it’s my husband, I don’t know what to say. Do you want to know the long story, or the Reader’s Digest Condensed version? How much have we discussed in the past and how much have you followed on his Facebook page? Do you know most of his story, or do I need to catch you up to speed? Can I trust you to bare my heart and really talk about him, or will talking to you end up leaving me feeling naked and awkward? Or are you just asking to be polite?

After my mind reviews all of the above and then some, there’s an excellent chance that in a kind of squeaky voice I’ll just say, “fine”.

That happens when I don’t know where to start. It happens when I don’t have the energy to open up and tell you what is really going on in our lives. It happens when I’m not sure you won’t say something that makes me feel small.

Unless you make it clear that you really care, that you’re on our team, and that I can trust you to listen and really care what I say, my answer will be my squeaky “fine.” Unless you hear that squeaky “fine,” and happen to notice the uncomfortable pause or the scrunched up look and my face and say, “No really, I want to know,” I might never get past “fine.

But I want to. I want to trust you. I want to talk to you. I want to get past that clumsy pause and really have a conversation. Just know that my conversation will entail therapy, special needs doctor appointments, behavior issues, and usually some type of bodily fluid cleanup. If you think you could get past all that, and really want to hear, I would love to talk to you. So if you hear me say my squeaky “fine” after that gawky pause, make sure you want to go there, and I will call you a friend.

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.

Follow her on Facebook.

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  1. Denie
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 3:46 pm PST

    You captured my sentiments EXACTLY. Thank you. I think I should get a t-shirt that has an abbreviated version of this on it.

  2. Carrie
    Posted January 24, 2017 at 10:11 am PST

    Yes, yes, 1,000x yes!!! That is exactly what I go through with the exact same question.

  3. Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:22 pm PST

    What a wonderful article you wrote about Ben who must be the ‘light of your life!
    I worked with people who had special needs for two years until I got layed off…It was a state job in an ‘institution’ I suppose you would call it. I grew to love my clients so much that when I heard that there was a plan to put them into the community with less than the right care I was so scared! One client was in his 80s and had to be supervised one on one for eating due to a problem! When they were going to move him into the community there would be no ‘one on one’ at all! I was so afraid he would choke! I couldn’t think about it and with no job we had to move away and then I got cancer and forgot so many things but not those wonderful friends of mine who loved me and vice versa!
    Your son is a jewel shining with his own special twinkling!

  4. Sherri
    Posted January 24, 2020 at 3:29 pm PST

    Your message is so beautiful. I am the grandmother, I feel the same way… think they are asking to be polite. People usually ask when the see me , they don’t call to ask . So I feel it’s just to be polite. I say he’s a Elijah , will always be… this way. Maybe that’s not the right thing to do but the pill is stuck like you said.

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