How To Relate To A Special Needs Mother

“I’m so sorry to hear that.”

This is the response I have heard after explaining my son’s diagnosis which is a rare form of dwarfism called Thanatophoric Dysplasia Dwarfism.

When I encounter this remark, I have found it easiest to comment, “He’s easy to love.” I don’t want the person I’m speaking with to feel bad for me. So, I answer with the truth, my son is a joy to raise. Then I’ll pull out my iPhone and show a picture of our little guy smiling. That always gets a good response.

Samuel's Smiling Face
The Face of Joy

Sympathy

I do; however, understand this reaction. When a child has challenges, however great or small, it is cause for concern and in this case sympathy.

Sympathy because I am living a different reality than most people experience with a non-special needs child. Unlike other children, my son is not asking me a hundred questions a day or begging me to buy him candy at the check-out counter. He is not struggling with his homework or telling me about his day at school.

He does demand cereal and is frequently absorbed by his iPad. I’m sure this is normal for a non-special needs child too. He loves his hospital homebound teachers and enjoys showing off for them. His face will light up at the sound of laughter and he often joins in. And we are teaching him how to walk and coaching him to say “Mama” and “Papa.”

Empathy

Did I mention he is ten years old?

Watching Elmo
Happily Watching Elmo

So I understand the reaction and even the apology. It comes from the heart of someone who can’t empathize not having travelled the road we are on. And, that is okay. If my son hadn’t been born with special needs; perhaps, I may have said the same thing to another mom, not understanding.

Kind hearted, good people genuinely don’t know what to say to another’s unthinkable circumstances. Whether those circumstances are raising a special needs child, handling the loss of a loved one or caring for an elderly parent. Or any other challenging circumstance. Unless someone has worn those shoes, empathy can’t be comprehended.

Common Ground

So, how can you relate to a special needs mother? Ask questions. Do less talking and more listening. (I’m working on this one.) Get a sense for what she is experiencing. Offer helpful advice if you can relate. Our little guy has a diaper rash right now. Though another mom may not be raising a special needs child, she could offer me advice on how to help my son with this uncomfortable problem. The lesson here is to find common ground and camp there.

I’m sure I’ll receive more comments as I continue to raise my miracle. At first, I may pause but after reflection, I can rest knowing the person was interested enough to ask and engage with me. The exchange hopefully offers me an opportunity to bring awareness to not only my son’s diagnosis but to the world of special needs in general.

How do you handle the comments of a stranger or even a friend?

What common ground do you find when talking with someone going through a challenging circumstance.

Share your story in the comments below. We can all learn from one another.

Written By Evelyn Mann

Author, WIP, A Miracle In My Living Room

The one who listens gains more than the one who is speaking. Evelyn Mann Click To Tweet

Four Ways To Encourage A Special Needs Family

December 12, 2015

A Special Needs Life: From The Heart Of A Mother

December 12, 2015

5 Thoughts on How To Relate To A Special Needs Mother

  1. Love this post! I’m a mom to a little guy with autism and sensory issues. I’m always opening to talking about this aspect of motherhood because I think there are a lot of stereotypes about kids with special needs whether they’re physical, mental, etc. As far as the diaper rash, A&D ointment really worked for us. Also, if you can give his bottom a small break from the diapers and let him a wear cotton underwear for a little bit each day that will help. If it gets really bad, my pediatrician has recommended soothing the bottom with an ice pack. Hope this helps!

    Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, Thanks for your advice. I did let him sleep with out diapers for a few nights…thankfully, I put a waterproof pad under him which helped. But what really helped was 2 tablespoons of unscented Dead Sea Salt from Jordan Essentials.(I’m a rep) After 2 days of soaking in a nice bath for 20 minutes…all better. Thanks for your sharing your comments and advice. Blessings, Evelyn

      Reply
  2. You’re right, it can be difficult knowing what to say. I think people in general tend to panic when in a situation that they’re not sure how to handle. Thanks for the insight! Your son has a fabulously infectious smile btw.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Brian. I know there are times when I don’t find the words or use the right words. Hopefully, there’s a lot of grace. Thanks for pausing and commenting…appreciate connecting. And, yes, that smile will get you every time.
      Blessings, Evelyn

      Reply
  3. Evelyn, you have such a kindness that I find almost unmatched by
    Many. You said, “we can all learn from one another,” and the way I
    Perceive that is that you are learning from your son!
    This is very touching story to me of
    The heart felt emotions and the love and bond that you have between you and him. And I’ve liked miraclemann
    Ever since the first time I read your
    Story. There is indeed a place for him, I can sense that God does have a special place for him, just like you’ve said! And it’s a happy one! Bless you Both! I love when you share, thank you!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.