Ten Things NOT to Say to a Special Needs Parent


December 21, 2010 by Marj Hatzell

I know as much as the next person how annoying it can be to get unsolicited advice sometimes. Family and friends (and sometimes, strangers) mean well. I get that. But in their effort to appear to be sympathetic and kind, they sometimes come across as…well, shallow and ignorant? I know I shouldn’t COMPLAIN about folks actually caring. I mean, THE AUDACITY. Here I am COMPLAINING that people try to say nice things to me that rub me the wrong way. I’m a horrible excuse for a human being, right? Except, I’m a human being. Meaning, I’m human. Meaning, things still hurt, despite my best effort to suck it up and deal with it. And I don’t mean to appear cynical or jaded or negative. But I’ve always claimed to keep it real. This is about as real as it gets.

Sometimes special parents are just fed up with sucking it up and dealing with it. You know? It sucks, nothing can be done, life goes on.

Anyways. Stuff. That I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it. Because I’d be a rich, rich woman indeed and there’d be no scrounging to get therapy stuff for my kid. Without further ado:

  1. G-d doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Look, I understand the intent. I really do. I know you are just trying to make me feel better. The thing is, if I am given something that I can handle, why do I need Wellbutrin? Just sayin’.
  2. Your kids are so lucky to have you for a Mommy! Really? I mean, they are lucky? They won the lottery? It wasn’t random you know. They ended up with me for a reason alright, it’s called genetics. And if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, there’s this great book on puberty I can read with you.
  3. I don’t know how you do it! You are so strong/amazing/such a good mom! No. No, I’m not. It may appear that way on the outside. But I do this BECAUSE I FREAKING HAVE TO. Honestly, what are my choices? To neglect my kid? I’m just doing what any parent should do. I’m doing my best to parent my children. The alternative is…Foster care? Sending them off? No. Though I’ve been tempted. From time to time. Not that I’m admitting that (Oh Gah, I just did).
  4. He’ll talk when he’s ready. Oh dear. This one strikes a real nerve. That kid is more than ready to communicate, my friends. In fact, he’s long overdue. Also, also? He NEEDS to be able to do it. He is beyond frustrated. HE IS READY. It just doesn’t come.
  5. He’ll eat better eventually or when he is hungry. Nope. Sorry. This is a kid who will either not eat all day or eat nothing but rice crackers and apples for three days. And, he has gone on several-days-long eating strike. He’s a stubborn little mule. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
  6. Can’t you just discipline him? HAHAHAHAHA!  Oh, that’s a good one!  HAHAHAHA!!! Oh! That’s funny!  Discipline!  It’s not like he goes to a BEHAVIORAL school or anything!  HAHAHAHA!!!
  7. He’s manipulating you. He’s just trying to get attention. Because a kid who can’t talk and pushes people away on a regular basis and doesn’t want to be around people hardly ever is looking for more attention. RIGHT O!
  8. I’m so sorry! Sorry? Why? Did something bad happen? Oh, you mean about my kid!  Well, there’s no reason to be sorry. He isn’t dying of some incurable disease and he’s quite happy, thankyouverymuch (and I should add, we’re just fine).
  9. What’s WRONG with Him? I cannot begin to tell you how much my jaw hurts from clenching my teeth when I hear this one. There is nothing wrong with my boy but I’m sure there’s PLENTY wrong with your lack of manners and you should be ashamed of asking me a question like that at your age. Sheesh. You’ve got a big mole on your nose, too. So there.
  10. Normal kids do that, too! Or, Oh my kid does that! No big deal! Really? Way to invalidate my feelings! And I highly doubt your child does it at this intensity and for this duration for this many days in a row. It also insinuates that my kid is not normal. And while I’m not claiming my kids are normal, C’mon! Trying to make it sound like my kids’ pants wetting in public/temper tantrums/eating food off the restaurant floor is NORMAL behavior is just…well, not normal. Also? It’s a big deal for us.
  11. YOU ARE SPOILING HIM. I lied. There are ELEVEN. Because this kid goes to Eleven, see. And he can’t be spoiled, that would entail overindulging him and since it’s impossible to give a kid too much of something he doesn’t want, he can’t possible spoiled. The only thing he gets overindulged in is LOVE. And we’re kinda all about freely giving that kind of stuff.

And there you have it.  Stay tuned for my next installment when I list the top ten things you shouldn’t say to my me in front of my kid. Well, nevermind. I JUST DID.

13 thoughts on “Ten Things NOT to Say to a Special Needs Parent

  1. I hate, yes hate, #1, 3, and 10. I get #3 especially as a military spouse. You should see the looks I’d get when my husband was deployed. People would say the inevitable “I don’t know how you do it.” I’d say, “Zoloft.” Cue crickets.

  2. punkymama says:

    WOW you hit the ball out of the house. All of this applies in so many situations, even to my food allergic kid. Thank you

  3. I feel your pain, I have a child with special needs and when I hear even my family say crap like these I feel smoke coming out of my ears.

    Though I like #2. 🙂

  4. Laura says:

    Well said. Something akin to #2 that I just got the other day was “God CHOSE you to parent these special children.”


    Thanks for venting my frustrations. LOL

  5. Jessica says:

    You hit the nail on the head! I really enjoy reading your stuff – keep up the good work !:)
    (my son is 6 with autism and I have a typical 8 yr old daughter)

  6. farmwifetwo says:

    Yes…. all of them…. hate them all.

  7. Viviane says:

    I heard no. 3 more than I could stand, and because of no. 6 I did not talk to my father during two years…
    Viviane, mother of two big, lovely, loving and lovable FragileX boys.

  8. Heidi says:

    I am the friend of families who have children with special needs, so I appreciate these words of caution very much. I wonder if you could create a list (or know of an existing one) for things that I could say that would be helpful and/or supportive. I would love to be a better friend.

  9. Stephanie says:

    Great list and great feedback!

  10. Kristy says:

    *looking sheepish*

    I think I’m guilty of at least two of those. Sorry! I’ll try to keep my foot firmly outside of my mouth in the future.

  11. Michy says:

    I think I’ve said the “I’m sorry” thing before, but I’ve managed to avoid the rest. thankfully. I usually stick to really general questions like, “What can I do to help?”, and try to keep my foot out of my mouth.

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