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
• "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
• "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