|Photo courtesy of: crisroll at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.|
Parents of children with disabilities who don’t look different have a hard time. So do their children. I’m talking about children who have autism, brain damage, speech challenges, hearing loss, etc. They’re the issues you can’t see.
Unthinking people might say things that hurt both the children and their mothers.
These kids, their parents, and siblings live with challenges every day. The autistic child doesn’t look different. The child who can’t hear doesn’t look different. So, people expect them to act and talk like everyone else, when they can’t.
Problems arise because we don’t know each individual child’s background.
That’s just the point.
When anyone, child or adult, doesn’t respond they way we expect him to, remember these three principles:
- There’s a reason.
- Be kind.
- Treat the person just as if he had reacted normally. (His actions are normal, for him.)
Don’t ask the parent in front of the child, “What’s wrong with him?” How awful is that! The mom or dad knows, of course, but it’s just plain rude for you to point it out in front of the child. The parent will tell you privately, if it’s your business to know (if you’re the child’s teacher, etc.). If it’s not your business—99% of the time—just be kind.
Can you imagine a child who struggles overhearing “What’s wrong with him?” It could be so very damaging! How terrible to do this to anyone, of any age, but especially to a child! His parents will spend hours and hours getting him over one unkind remark.
If you’re the parent of a special needs child, learn to forgive and forgive and forgive. Seventy times seven* and more. Realize that the people who make cruel remarks and ask unkind questions are ignorant. They haven’t thought before they opened their mouth. It’s sad but true. Be a good forgiver, and help your child to forgive, as well. Your gracious attitude is a witness for Christ. (It’s okay to cry. We know you still hurt. Hugs!)
When children (or adults) act up or act out, it’s always for a reason. If a person doesn’t behave as he should, here are several things you can do:
- Pray for the person and his family. You can actually minister to them through prayer.
- Give the individual the benefit of the doubt. You don’t know his story, but there’s a reason he does what he does.
- If you’ll have repeated contact with the child, find out from his mother what his issues are and how you can help. She loves to talk about her children and is glad you want to help.
- Smile and be kind.
- How would Jesus treat this person? With love and compassion. So should we.
- Criticize a child you don’t understand. You have no idea! It’s not the child’s fault he has issues.
- Criticize the parents. They need encouragement, not criticism. Look for and make positive statements.
- Offer miracle cures. Believe me, every mother with a special needs child has worn out the Internet with her research. She's probably also tried every diet, every special vitamin, every stimulation, every system of schooling, and everything else touted to help her child. If you have a child with the same challenge, and you’ve found something that works for your child, you can, of course, feel free to share your own experience in a non-pushy, non-judgmental way.
- Give unsought advice. Again, the mother has informed herself and is doing the very best she can to meet the needs of her family. A whole cadre of health professionals are familiar with her child.
|Photo courtesy of: David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.|
If you’re the parent of a child with special needs, it’s helpful to advise your host or hostess about your child ahead of your visit. Let them know how they can help him (how to treat him, diet needs, etc.) This way, the hosts can prepare their family and have an idea what to expect.
If you’re friends with the family, volunteer to help out from time to time. Use good judgment, and don’t be pushy.
Here are a few ways you can help:
- Befriend the child, not pressuring him. Give him loving attention. Get to know how he thinks and how he works. Enjoy him and accept him as he is.
- Let the child join in with other children. (Listen to his parents about what age group will be most comfortable for him. Don’t be rigid, demanding that he be in a class or play group with peers his own physical age.)
- Educate others in your circle of friends, so that the child and his parents will be easily accepted. When people understand special needs, they are more comfortable.
- Help out the mother when you’re together in a public place. If one child needs his mother, volunteer to watch her other children for a few minutes.
- Volunteer to babysit for a few hours, so that the parents can get away together, alone.
- Take flowers or another pretty gift to the mother. She can use some beauty in her life.
- Take a meal to them, so they can eat-in but not have to prepare anything.
- Prepare a sensory gift for the child—one toy. (Sensory toys: scents, tactile, sounds, glowing lights, etc.)
- Plan an outing to a park or playground—somewhere out in nature, where the children can run around. Help your children befriend the child with issues as well as his siblings. Everyone needs friends!
- Above all, be understanding and trust the parents’ judgment.
The Apostle Paul said, I have shewed you all things,
how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak,
and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus,
how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Now we exhort you, brethren . . . support the weak, be patient toward all men.
(from 1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Let’s be a blessing!
* Seventy times seven is from Matthew 18:22 where Jesus commands to forgive many times.