“It’s amazing how smart he is.”Olesia Bilkei/shutterstock
It seems commonplace for others to assume that children with special needs automatically have a difficult time learning. Claire Campbell, a mom of two deaf children who wear cochlear implants, says that this comment is one of the ones she hears most in different forms, such as “Doing well for a deaf kid—we feel so disappointed when we hear that from teachers.” Christina Low Kapalu, PhD and licensed psychologist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City Division of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences, says that people tend to place their own limitations on children with special needs that can have devastating psychological effects on both the child and the child’s parents. It’s important never to assume that a child’s disability limits his or her intelligence. Instead, you can ask a question like, “Is she enjoying school? What is her favorite subject?”, which can leave a more open-ended response for parents. These important tips can also help you become more sensitive to the feelings of others.
“I am so sorry.”Jaren Jai Wicklund/shutterstock
It’s common for people not to know what to say to parents of children with special needs, and a quick response may be, “I’m sorry,” as if a child’s disability is a negative thing for the child or his parents. Noelle LaCharite, mom of Max, who was born with Down syndrome, says that seemingly harmless comment was one that she found the most irritating. “I would instantly go into Mama bear protective mode,” LaCharite says. Her standard response is, “There’s nothing to be sorry about. Max is amazing!” Dr. Kapalu says that it’s important never to pity a parent or child or their situation. Instead, she says to “ask questions that help you understand what it is like for them.” This shows both your compassion and interest in their situation.