Pointers For Relatives And Friends

As the mother or father of a
child with special needs, the opportunity to replace widespread ignorance with
solid education is yours. Your task is to help others help you. You can also
enlist an understanding friend or family spokesperson to convey your feelings
to other people.  

Teach People About Tact, Respect
Don't Walk and Assuming The Unexpected

Tact - Interest is appreciated. Intrusiveness is not. Most people are
careful not to pry into the private lives of typically developing children, so
ask that they exercise politeness when discussing your child who has special
needs. Some details can be embarrassing or sensitive information. Instruct
others to look for cues from you to know how much you feel comfortable sharing.
Or ask friends and relatives to inquire whether you want to discuss specific
topics. Let them know that if they may share certain information, you may have
heard it before and tried it, or it may seem inapplicable to your situation. Offering
ideas is helpful; pushing isn't. Maintain a kind but firm stance about others
letting you choose which advice to accept when, and not taking it personally if
you decide that their suggestion doesn't work for you at this time.

Respect - Others might not realize that your daughter may understand more
than she appears to. Make a rule that when she is present, people only say things that will make her feel good about herself. Get them to talk to her. Instead of answering
when your daughter is asked her name or age, have people ask her. Even if she
cannot answer or even understand, she may comprehend a caring tone. Teach
relatives and friends not to assume that your son is the same as all other
children who share his medical condition. Encourage them to get to know him as
an individual. Explain that you like hearing your child referred to by name - your
child is "Noah
". He should not be
referred to as "that poor Smith child who is retarded and in a wheelchair".

Don't Walk - Let others know how important it is to you that they stay your
friend. They may not realize how hurtful it is when, feeling discomfort, they
cross the street or disappear down the canned foods aisle. Convey that all you
want is for people to act normal around you and your child - it doesn't help
matters to overdo by prattling on excitedly in a fake manner. You want to get
out the message that you wish others to relate to you as they did before you
became the parent of a disabled child.

Assume the Unexpected - Your child's temper tantrums or other atypical or
socially inappropriate behavior may be misinterpreted as the result of bad parenting
on your part. It may not be obvious that your daughter is autistic, or that
your son has ADHD. Teach people that your child's behavioral challenges do not
mean that you do not care how he or she behaves, or that you are not trying to
educate him or her behind the scenes. Get others to pause before they judge and
take a moment to contemplate this: meltdowns may mean medical matters are

By helping others relate to your unique situation, you are helping yourself
and your child experience more tranquility. Your extra efforts in reaching out
can secure a life of higher quality for your child with special needs, and for