Whatcha Say

“May I ask what he has?”

I blinked my eyes several times. Did I just hear the Starbucks barista right? Did she just ask me what condition my son has?

“Excuse me?” I said, with a smile.

“What does he have?”

“Oh, Solly? What does he have? You mean …….. He has CP,” I said quietly, nervously. I was hoping that’s what she meant by her question, not wanting to make her feel awkward if it wasn’t.

“Oh, CP! My oldest has Asperger’s. I’m a special needs Mom, too,” she replied. “Bye, bye, Solly. Come back, soon!”

This conversation was such a breath of fresh air that I literally skipped back to the car with my chai tea latte in one hand and Solly in my other arm.

When you have a special needs child, every outing has its share of stares. It used to bother the heck out of me and keep me inside the house. Now, I’m so used to it that I don’t notice, I don’t have time to dwell on it and, quite frankly, I don’t care if a handful of strangers stare at my obviously delayed and different child. However, one of the hardest parts of being a special needs Mom is feeling different and outcast from the general public, and the stares certainly don’t help. The problem, I’ve realized, is that unless you are a special needs family, you simply don’t know what to do or say when you see a child or person who’s a little bit different. And, instead of saying something to that family or child, you might wonder “what’s wrong with that child” and worry about what to say and decide it’s best to say nothing at all.

Don’t do that. Don’t be that person. Please say something and make that Mom, family feel like they are noticed as just another human being. It isn’t hard. Here’s what you could say:

Simply say “hi” and smile. It sounds obvious and too easy, but you’d be surprised at how few people do this. I give extra bonus points for folks who look Solly in the eye and say hi to him, even though they know (or seem to know) that he might not answer them.

To add to the previous point, ask the child’s name and let his or her parents know just how cute the child is. Even though our babies have a medical diagnosis, like every other parent on the planet, we are fiercely proud of our babies and think they are the cutest kids on the planet. Let us know that you think they’re cute, and you’ll make our day the best ever.

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. If you just take the one or two seconds to recognize a Mama or Dad with a special needs kiddo, you’ll not only put them at ease, but you’ll also show others around you that, yes, it’s ok to say hi to the family that might be just a little bit different.

Solly says: “Just say ‘hi’!”

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