It’s a strange phenomenon. As soon as they hear your child has special needs, some well-meaning person showers you with comments like, “maybe he will grow out of it!” or “all kids are quirky!” Perhaps one of the most irritating and least helpful sentences uttered our way is, “Well, ALL kids do that! Are you sure she has special needs?” Today, I read a blog post over at SimpleHomeschool.net that encompassed all of that. I frequent SimpleHomeschool because of their great articles on homeschooling and family life. However, their suggestions are often written for the “typical” homeschooling family, which doesn’t seem to include special needs children and parenting. I find myself disappointed periodically by the lack of support and understanding about what it is like to homeschool a special needs child. It comes with its own set of challenges and rewards, which are completely different than those that accompany homeschooling my neurotypical children. The article I read today was no exception…in fact, it was downright insulting. Every person on earth is unique. Not everyone has special needs.
Look, parents with special needs kids aren’t asking strangers or family or friends to change their child’s diagnosis. We love our children, fiercely. We would go to the ends of the earth for our kids, and we often do. What we don’t need is someone who feels uncomfortable with special needs children trying to rationalize to themselves their regrettable behavior by shouting at us that “all kids are quirky!”
Special needs kids CAN be quirky. Their behaviors can be cute, endearing, common, and often times, a blessing. Many parents feel their special needs child has changed their life in unimaginable ways, and they wouldn’t trade it for anything. We are who we are because of our children.
However, trivializing a child’s struggle or disability is insulting. It is “cute” and “quirky” that one of my kids likes to wear his underwear backwards. It is NOT cute and quirky that my autistic son got made fun of last week because of the way he talks. It is not cute that he has debilitating tics that he cannot control and cause him mental and physical anguish. It is not quirky that he has five foods he can eat because of sensory issues. It embarrasses him and makes him feel left out when other kids eat pizza and he can’t, because he would love nothing more than to be part of the group. It is not quirky that he scripts phrases out of movies in order to communicate with his peers, if they even pause long enough to listen to him.
It is not a blessing that many families will go bankrupt trying to pay for the therapies and healthcare for their special needs child. It is not a blessing that many mothers are wiping smeared poop off the wall at 2 AM while Dad is deployed and she is all alone without family around to allow her a nap the next day. It is not a blessing that she will have to drive bleary eyed to several therapies the next day with a screaming, non-verbal child in the back seat.
I could go on but I won’t. Having a special needs child is life changing. They are amazing children who bring much joy and enlightenment to our lives. However, the behaviors that interfere with their functioning, quality of life, and happiness aren’t “quirks.” Please stop slinging this word around, as it is not helpful. Instead, when you hear someone has a special needs child, simply say, “Your child is beautiful.” Because they are.
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