There is only one thing that every parent of a special needs child want you to know:
Your child is more alike than different from mine.
Our child is not the autistic child, the Down syndrome girl, or the kid in the wheelchair. They are
Their diagnoses do not define them.
When we view children with disabilities as a problem to be cured or fixed, we separate them from their peers, their environment, and their communities.
Moms of children with disability just want you to see the child as a whole person with needs and desires and dreams. Children are children first regardless of disabilities. Children never want to be separated. They want to be included. Help us make that dream a reality.
Here are some ways to include and support parents of and the children with diagnoses that can define them.
- Don’t express pity. If we tell you our child has a disability, we may already be drowning in fear. “I’m sorry.” is the last thing we want to hear. Our children are amazing people. There’s nothing to be sorry about.
- Do Celebrate. Celebrate that we have a child who is perfect just they way they were made.
Celebrate that our child can change the world. Celebrate milestones with joy. Remind us (and our child) that we have so much to be grateful for.
- Don’t ask about a milestone and then when we say “not yet” , reply with “oh it will happen” Duh. we know it will happen, but it’s discouraging to hear.
- Do ask about our children. Our kids have huge victories every day and we want to brag on them. Don’t be afraid to say the wrong thing, but do take our correction with humility; it takes a lot of courage for us to tell you what you said was offensive.
- Don’t praise your children for playing with ours. Praise your child for playing with all children, regardless of their ability/disability.
- Do teach your children that all children are gifted with special abilities. Each child is different. Each child is beautiful. Each child has their own gift to share with the world. Answer their awkward questions in public and ask them what they think this unique person contributes to friendships and life.
- Don’t avoid interacting with us because of disability. We NEED YOUR FRIENDSHIP. We need it to help our children grow with peers and we need it for our own sanity.
- Do invite us to events. There may be some things you have to do to prepare for having a child over with food allergies or who is in a wheelchair or who displays some destructive stemming behaviors in public. We are always willing to help you create a safe environment for everyone. Our children love playing with yours and we love watching them learn with you.
To conclude, we’ll share this video for both some giggles (my children think it’s hilarious) and for some real truth. The video speaks specifically about Down syndrome, but the principle applies to every child with “special needs.”
Meet the amazing co-authors:
Melissa Aldrich is a hot mess mama who owns Quiet Graces Photography. She has three kiddo who are all within 25 months of each other and she’s crazy enough to home school them. Between studying exoplanets made of diamonds, editing photographs of sweet newborn babies, and trying not to lose her mind, she enjoys encouraging other mamas with the raw realness of her own story. Holden and Lydia are her nephew and “niece” and she will continue to raise awareness about the amazing people children with disability really are.
Monica Campell lives with her amazing wife Ruth in Charleston. Together they are raising Holden to like ice cream and eat the cheese off his pizza (a big accomplishment) with frequent trips to the water park which is their favorite place on earth. Monica hates doing the dishes and can’t stand the sight of opossums, but she’ll drop everything and listen to a friend in need. Well, unless of course that friend is holding an opossum.