We have all experienced those lovely moments (detect my sarcasm) where someone has said something that had you left standing there either in shock, pissed off, or upset. Here are a few of those beautiful questions/statements:
· “What’s wrong with her?”
I was recently in a furniture store looking at buying a bed for my youngest child when my daughter began speaking to the sales lady about being a Special Needs Child (Maddy often says it with such pride) and the sales assistant then turned to me and asked “What’s wrong with her?” After I picked my jaw up off the ground I responded with “Nothing.” Because that’s the truth, there is nothing “wrong” with my child at all! I’d imagine it would be perceived as strange to ask a parent of a child without special needs “What’s right about her?” If you are trying to ask someone about his or her child with special needs perhaps rephrase it to “What is his/her diagnosis if you don’t mind me asking?” or better yet – if you don’t know the person, don’t ask! In most cases I’m more than happy to answer and discuss because each conversation raises awareness and acceptance but try and ask in a sensitive, respectful way.
· “I’m Tired”
Unless you have lived off 3 hours of sleep or less a night for months on end, you cannot complain to someone living with a special needs child about being tired. Having a newborn baby gives you more sleep than having a child battling sleep disorders in most situations.
· “She seems fine to me”
Just because you aren’t tuned in to noticing the symptoms doesn’t mean that they are not there. And if the child doesn’t display the symptoms around you it could mean a number of things such as them being out of their comfort zone, the child not knowing you well enough, or you may have caught them on a “good day”. Remarking on the child seeming fine could result in the parent feeling that you doubt them.
· “She is never like that when she is with us”
See above! A child often displays their ‘symptoms’ in their main environments such as the home of their primary caregiver, their classroom, or anywhere that they may visit at least weekly.
· “Just let her starve if she wont eat it”
Children under the spectrum are often ‘fussy eaters’ this isn’t because they are trying to be difficult or to defy their parents, it's because they see, taste, and smell things differently. It could be as minor as not wanting to eat food on their plate that touches another item of food on the same plate, or that they can only eat foods of a certain colour (often while or pale colours to avoid sensory overload.) It could be because they require different utensils rather than what you are used to such as chopsticks or their hands. This is not something that should be punished, its something that should be supported in a way that still ensures that they are eating adequately. I will follow up on fussy eating in another post soon.
· “Aren’t you going to yell at her?”
In most cases, yelling will aggravate a child more. Yelling in any situation apart from where safety is at risk is not entirely necessary if you are willing to put in the extra effort. Our OT encouraged us to try a yelling free household and I saw almost instant results (after laughing at her suggestion!). So when you see a child misbehaving and the parent is ignoring or speaking to them calmly, assume that they know what they are doing!
I’d love to hear if you have any more to add to “what not to say”!