CAUSES : Do not express regret

Instead of expressing regret and sympathy, it’s better to see how you can help out. Invite their child for a play date, or offer to babysit so that they can go out. If you come to know of specialists or new places that could help their children, let them

When you see the parent of a special child – autistic, retarded or even physically disabled – the first reaction is to express regret at their situation. One tries to appear sympathetic to their ‘plight’ and usually people start saying things like “what can you do, it’s God’s will?” or “why don’t you try for another child?”Stop right there. Take a look at the parents. Do you think your sympathy is what they need? Honestly, it’s not. Empathy is more important to parents of special children, than all the sympathy in the world.

When a parent learns that their child has certain disabilities, for them it’s the end of the world. To pick up the shattered pieces of their life is a tough task in itself. Being reminded of it wherever they go does not help. It is very important for them to have some semblance of normalcy back. If you really want to help, don’t express sympathy. Rather try to be a part of their regular lives.

You might not approve of the fact that your childhood friend gave up her job to stay back and home school her autistic son who isn’t faring well even at special schools. Tell her that. If you believe she is wrong in making this ‘sacrifice’ explain to her how you feel it will affect her mental health. That is how you behave normal. Not by saying “Oh! What other sacrifices will you have to make!” Your friend is sure to appreciate that you thought of her as an individual, rather than the parent of a special child.

Similarly, the parents of special children do want to think of other things apart from their predicament. They, too, want to go out and have fun. So if that’s what you were doing earlier, do not stop. Don’t pre-think their answers and make statements like “I know you won’t be able to come”. Maybe they do want to go out. Maybe your friend has been waiting to go out but feeling guilty that he’ll be judged. So act normal. Ask him to join the guys for a drink or whatever.

Instead of expressing regret and sympathy, it’s better to see how you can help out. Invite their child for a play date, or offer to babysit so that they can go out. If you come to know of specialists or new places that could help their children, let them know casually. Parents of special children do not want sympathy. They just want to feel normal. Treat them that way.

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