Defying Stigmas

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by Telina Knight

“Is he slow?”

 “He's delayed? You're just not working with him hard enough.”

 “Cooper is dumb.”

These are just a few of the statements I've heard from others regarding my son. None of them are true, but that doesn't make the sting of those words hurt any less. It's amazing to me how many people, in today's world of instant access to endless information, remain ignorant to the truths of children with special needs. Too many automatically assume that if your child has a disability, chronic condition, or delays they must be “########” or “slow.”

As a fellow parent of a child with special needs, I'm sure you know exactly how infuriating these assumptions are, and how hurtful it is to know that people actually look down on those who have special needs.

It's especially hurtful when some imply there something you as a parent could have done to prevent your child's special needs. In the beginning of Cooper's diagnosis of having significant delays in communication, social, cognitive, and fine motor skills, my husband and I often heard statements like “Well, you just need to work with him more. Buy some flash cards.”

At first, my husband and I took statements like these to heart and even began to believe we were to blame. Until I had a talk with the specialist who diagnosed Cooper. She assured me there was nothing we could have done to prevent Cooper's problems. She also advised me to challenge those nay-sayers to “buy some flash cards” themselves and try to work with my son. So we did.

My father was the first to be challenged. He couldn't accept that his grandson wasn't “normal,” as he put it, so at first he decided to blame us. It took less than a day of trying to work with Cooper to realize he was wrong. He also realized that Cooper was indeed very smart, despite his challenges.

If you want to defy the stigmas surrounding your child's special needs, the best thing you can do is educate those around you about your child's conditions. Though it can be incredibly difficult at time to keep your head up and a smile on your face while dealing with your child's special needs, it's important not let things others say be the reason you feel down.

As parents of children with special needs, we have enough to think about without worrying about what others are saying. Don't waste time defending your child's disabilities or challenges, or getting upset over ignorant comments about you and your child; instead focus on teaching those who don't understand the facts.

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