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Meet My Son

Jennifer Buell

What Not to Say
No one ever wants to offend or hurt families of kids with special needs. Use this guide to be positive and welcoming-and avoid pitfalls that push families away. Don't say:
"I'm sorry." Offer prayer rather than pity: "How can I pray for you?"
"I know all about what you're going through." Don't try to have all the answers; you never will. Listen first. Offer to learn more. Commit to partner with parents.
"What's wrong with your child?" Nothing is wrong with the child; she's unique and different, not deficient.
"I've had kids like this before." No, you haven't. All special needs aren't equal. Each child is unique with a unique set of needs. Get to know each child and what each needs to succeed.
"What can't he do?" Ask about the child's strengths. How can you help grow those strengths?
• "It must be so hard for you." This statement assumes way too much. Let siblings and parents of kids with special needs tell you what it's like; don't put words in their mouths.
"I feel so bad for you." Self-pity, others' pity, or pity for the child with special needs is disabling. None of us needs pity. Empathy, the ability to feel with another person, is the best emotion and attitude: "Tell me more so I can understand how to partner with you."
Patty Anderson is mom to a child with special needs and senior product developer for Group's Children's Ministry Essentials.

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