Relative or Friend's Special Needs Child - Parent's Perspectives

Here are some ways that parents describe how to view their children with special needs - and how to view them as their child's mom and dad.

See their child as an individual

Parents of children with special needs wish that people would view their disabled child as a child like any other, and not as some alien being. Each person in the world is unique. Every person has "special needs". See the child first, and his needs second.

Don't minimize their child's needs by matching them with stories about the needs of your typically developing child. Parents are sensitive to the fact that while your child will quickly outgrow certain challenges, these will take much more time and effort for their child. Respect their situation as unique.

Their child is not breaking news

Show caring interest, but don't pester parents for details about their disabled child that they may not feel comfortable sharing. You would not delve into the private lives of typically developing children. Try to read cues to judge how much parents of special needs children feel like sharing.

A sensitive area

Parenting a special needs child is similar to having an open wound. If you touch this area carelessly, it hurts. Mothers and fathers may react by jumping at you. Speak to mothers and fathers of kids with special needs, but with sensitivity. Always add an extra measure of gentleness when approaching the topic of their disabled child.

Don't judge their parenting skills

It may take a stretch of imagination to realize that a child's tantrum may be due to a medical condition, and not to the parents' excessive permissiveness. Moments of meltdown may not be the best time for discipline.

The child needs understanding - not punishment or stern words. You may not see a child's disability because it may be a hidden one. Assume that the deeper factor of a medical condition may exist.

Don't tell parents how special they are

Parents of children with special needs consider themselves to be just like you. They woke up one morning to find that their child has a disability. These men and women don't feel especially well equipped to deal with it. If you put them on a pedestal, you distance yourself from them. That makes them feel lonely. They are real. Treat parents of disabled children as normal people who are dealing with something really, really heavy. Recognizing the intensity of their emotions is supportive.