Just Don’t Say It

A friend of mine wrote a Facebook post regarding what not to say to people who have been diagnosed with cancer.  That triggered my “what not to say” to people who have children with special needs lingering close to the surface ire.  Some of these, while cringe worthy when heard, may be tolerated depending on the age/experience of the speaker.  Doctors, other medical professionals, and educators never get the benefit of the doubt in my opinion.  These are totally subjective and are in no particular annoyance level order:

  1. They are so loving/happy.
  2. Does she only have it a little or a lot?
  3. Is she high functioning?…basically any statement with the word “functioning” in it.
  4. God gives special children to special people.
  5. God gives us what we can handle.
  6. You’ve got your hands full.
  7. Did you know before she was born?
  8. Did you have testing done?
  9. I could never do what you do.
  10. You have so much patience.

I can debunk each phrase with one sentence, and it takes great self-control to not immediately fire off a reply while simultaneously hiding the exasperated and sometimes obviously annoyed look that engulfs my face…which may or may not include a death stare, again depending on who is uttering the offence.

  1. She can be loving/happy, she can also be a pain in the…patootie/grumpy as all get out, just like you.
  2. She doesn’t have anything a little or a lot, it is not a cold, it is who she is.
  3. Please explain who determines levels of functioning…and only attempt this after I have had at least two cups of coffee…because I do NOT function or care to prior to that, especially when having stupid conversations like this.
  4. I think the child with special needs in an abusive family situation would argue this with you.
  5. See #4…many families have fractured and parents/caregivers have given in or up.
  6. What parent doesn’t?
  7. Are you asking me if I would have terminated my pregnancy had I known, and if so, that is none of your business?
  8. See #7.
  9. Yes you probably could and would, unless you are in the boat of #4 or #5.
  10. I am the least patient person you will ever meet and you can ask anyone who truly knows me to this to verify this.

When it comes right down to it, families don’t want to be patronized.  They don’t want you to make stereotypical comments regarding their person’s anything.  They do not want to be put on a pedestal or canonized.  They want you to accept their child, see them for who they are and appreciate their individuality and personhood.  A thumbs up, pat on the back, you are doing good…or maybe an offer to buy them a cup of coffee will suffice.


Today’s Blog Was Written By Deborah Cavanagh