GROW Community

4 Ways to Break the Ice with a Family with Children with Special Needs

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
01/23/18  10:05 AM PST
special needs family

As a mom of a child with special needs blogger, I’m ensconced in the blog world, and often find myself reading posts by other parents walking similar paths. When I can, I share the posts of other special needs bloggers on my Facebook page. Recently, I stumbled upon this post, written by a mom of a younger child with special needs. It seems that because her child’s diagnosis isn’t obvious to casual observers, that people ask about him using a phrase that stings: “What’s wrong with him?”

When I posted the story, some of my thoughtful friends asked me, “So what should I say?” They recognized that parents of kids with special needs can often feel isolated, and don’t want to do the wrong thing, causing further frustration. For me, having been involved with disability community for many years, it’s a no-brainer, but before I had a child with special needs, I would not have been all that comfortable speaking to the child or the parents.

How do you go about talking to families with special needs? Some of it is going to be subjective, every family is different, but there are some things that people can do to meet us in the middle when we’re out with our kids with special needs.

1 Talk to my child instead of asking about him. Imagine that you had a sudden change in your abilities, whether physical or cognitive. How would you want to be treated? Would you want people to ask your family members about you, or would you want them to speak directly to you? Keep in mind though, that some people, especially on the autism spectrum, might not be able to reciprocate very well, and don’t take it personally.

2 Smile. When my son had cancer, we had a rare outing to the zoo while he was bald as a cue ball and bloated from steroids. My husband was pulling him in a wagon, and I walked behind for a while. Most passersby winced when they saw my baby, and it crushed me. A smile goes a long way with anyone, but when you so often get stared at it’s like a double rainbow stretching across the sky, totally magical. When someone in public smiles at my family, my spirits soar, and it breaks down barriers.

3 Use an icebreaker. Does the child have on cute shoes? A winning smile? Is there a way to start the conversation on a positive note? Chances are if you tell a caregiver of a child with special needs that “they have such sweet eyes” that the person will open right up, and the conversation will flow naturally.

4 Be specific. If curiosity wins out and you feel you just must know what the child’s disability is, rather than asking, “What is wrong?” try, “What is his diagnosis?”

Parents of kids with disabilities are often eager ambassadors, ready to help the world better understand their child. However, we’re often tired, holistically tired, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; but if you can help us bridge the gap, most of us will be glad for a pleasant interaction.

More articles on the topic of families with children with special needs:


Post Comment