Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Special Needs Kids: Think Before Your Speak!

As parents, we try to teach our children that everyone is made differently. Some people are born different than others and look different than others, but despite those differences, they should be treated equally. We teach our children not to stare or act differently around people with special needs. As a mother to a child that needs a little extra care, I have to say, other children aren't the concern as they simply don't understand. But, instead, it's other parents and adults that are the biggest cause of heartache for families with special children.

I'll just say this-- it's not always obvious when a child has special needs, so think before you speak! 

In our case, my oldest son suffers from chronic and uncontrolled allergies and asthma. I'm not talking about hay fever or activity induced asthma. I'm talking about a child who is stuck inside 95% of the time because his body can't tolerate being exposed to different environments or even people. A child who is allergic to anything and everything, which cause asthma attacks once exposed to the allergen. A child whose quality of life is greatly diminished due to the severity of his allergies and asthma. As a result of his allergies, he often appears to be incredibly sick with relentless coughing, constant sneezing and congestion, constant running nose, and overall unhealthy appearance.

I understand this is probably why the outside acts they way they do around us. They don't want to "get sick." But, he isn't the slightest bit contagious. Although he may appear to be very ill, children often accept him and treat him no differently. Adults on the other hand, have been down right cruel and heartless to him and our entire family.

As an example, we were grocery shopping and my son had a terrible asthma attack in the store. As I'm fumbling through my purse trying to find his rescue inhaler, a woman pushing a baby in a shopping cart walks by and says, "God, what is wrong with you?! That child needs to be home in bed. It's disgusting you brought him to the store like that! Don't you think about other people?" Of course, my son and my other children heard this woman's comment.

Another time, my son was having a good day, so we went to the park as a family. My son was playing with another child and all was well. Then, when he started sneezing and coughing. The mother runs over and grabs her child and says, "Come on honey. We're going to go play over here. I don't want you to get sick." My disappointed son came over to me and just sat down. He was so excited to go to the park-- the first time he had been able to go outdoors in over 2 months. After that, all he wanted to do was go home.

Some days my son can't leave the house without his allergy mask on. As we walk through stores all we see are adults turning their heads staring at him, while the children we pass seem to be oblivious that he's even wearing it.

All too often, adults shrink back, take steps away, and some even pull out hand sanitizer when they are near my son.

So here's the point, as I mentioned earlier-- It's not always visible whether or not a child has special needs, so please think before you speak. You teach your children not to judge or treat children with special needs differently, yet many parents are guilty of doing it, often without even realizing it.

So, next time you see that sick child in a store and the mother you think appears to not notice, cut her a break and the child. Maybe, she's trying to find medication for the child in her purse. Instead of judging or saying unkind words, maybe offer to help.

Here's what I ask, not only parents, but all adults-- please think before you speak. You never know what's truly going on. 

Parents to special needs kids, have you notice this as well? How do you cope with the looks and unkind words?

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