Children with special needs teach us all the important lessons of love, patience, and understanding. However, not everyone has had the opportunity to spend time with children with disabilities. This can sometimes lead to unanswered questions and misconceptions — especially when it comes to parenting.

Perhaps you know someone who is raising a child with special needs. It’s perfectly alright to have questions for these parents. Isn’t it better to have an informed dialogue rather than to make assumptions? Conversations about parenting and children with disabilities can only help to teach people and to spread the message of compassion and sensitivity.

We’ve put together a few pointers to help you confidently and compassionately speak to parents of children with disabilities.

Watch for social cues

Some moms and dads are very open about their children, whether they have special needs or not. Each scenario should be treated sensitively and in accordance with what feels appropriate to you. Hopefully, if you have questions for a parent of a child with disabilities, you would know when it was the right time to ask them. It’s great to be open and to acknowledge that not all children with special needs are the same, which means parenting can vary from family to family. But only you can determine if a parent is interested in sharing details with you.

Ask the same parenting questions you would ask anyone

How old is your child? What is his name? How does she like that new toy? A child’s disability, of course, is not what defines him. Looking beyond a disability and into the heart and soul of children in order to know them as individuals is extremely important to parents of children with special needs. Get to know character traits and qualities of these children the same way you would with any child.

Remain positive

All parents want the same thing for their children: happiness. Parents of children with special needs are doing everything they can to provide a happy and well-rounded life for their children. Take notice of these things — whether it’s a child’s enrollment in an extracurricular activity, or a unique skill that he or she possesses. Don’t assume that because a child has special needs he or she is suffering. Making the effort to look at the positive in a situation will go a long way to erasing misconceptions. Parents of children with disabilities already understand the challenges that their family faces, so do what they do and focus on the bright side.

New Call-to-action

Relate, don’t alienate

Keep in mind that parents of children with special needs have the same responsibilities as all parents. They are doing nothing more than working to provide the very best life possible for their child. Chances are that’s exactly what you are striving for with your children as well. It’s important to see where parenting overlaps, rather than seeking out where it may differ. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. If you were in the same circumstance as other moms and dads, you would make your child’s life as full of wonder and love as possible.

Recognize when boundaries are being overstepped

You would be hard-pressed to find a parent who does not appreciate the offer of a helping hand. It is a kind and genuinely caring gesture to make. Offering unsolicited advice, however, is not necessarily helpful. What feels like an attempt to relate to the circumstance can come off as rude. This can often result in stepped-on toes and hurt feelings. When you make a comment, however innocent, implying that you know what is best, it belittles any parent’s best efforts. Be sure to pay attention to social cues and maybe only offer advice when asked.

Remember the golden rule

Everyone in the parenting community deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. Isn’t that what we all want? There is a great lesson here about communicating with those around us. These guidelines can apply to all of our daily interactions. It is easy to focus on our differences, but it takes confidence and openness to be able to actually relate to those differences.

We can all be positive, compassionate people and open the lines of communication from parent to parent. We can also put to bed misconceptions about children with disabilities and their moms and dads when we learn from each other. When we are able to embrace every part of ourselves, we will see those around us as their true selves. Accepting everyone for who they are and not placing judgments on any person will foster a compassionate, loving environment.

If you are a parent raising a child with special needs, learn how BAYADA Home Health Care can help you.