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10 Things to Say When Someone is Rude to Your Special Needs Child

It happens…and you dread it. You don’t want your special needs child to ever feel ashamed of what he or she is, but there’s always a rude stranger who either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about your kid’s challenges. Here are 10 things you can say to deflect rude comments.

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  1. My child has [insert special need here], and s/he deserves to be treated with respect like everyone else.
  2. I don’t believe I heard you properly. I think I’d like to keep it that way.
  3. I would appreciate it if you apologize to my child for hurting his/her feelings.
  4. I teach my son/daughter to be polite to people. Could you please rephrase that?
  5. Would you like to rethink what you just said?
  6. I hope you didn’t realize how hurtful it was to say something like that.
  7. My child has special challenges, but that’s no excuse for you to be rude.
  8. [Explain what your child’s special needs are if the person seems ignorant but reasonable.]
  9. Did anyone ever tell you the world is full of people with different challenges? I guess yours is a lack of tact.
  10. Please don’t ever speak that way to my child again.

How do you respond to rude comments from people? Do you have any examples you’d like to share with us?

This post originally appeared elsewhere. Thanks to all of our visitors from TweetMeme! Feel free to tweet me up at @WELLinTHIShouse.

Christina Gleason (863 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I’m a relatively high-functioning Aspie who also lives with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. I am not ashamed to admit that I am in the care of a psychiatrist, who assures me that people in therapy are often better adjusted than “normal” people who are not, because at least we know what our issues are and are working on them. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including World of Warcraft and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead. I have started writing no fewer than five novels, and I hope to finish one of them...eventually.

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{ 24 comments… add one }

  • Stefanie May 10, 2011, 12:32 am

    Love this post! Will definitely share it. Thanks Christina :)

  • Linda Carmical May 10, 2011, 6:46 pm

    Special needs or not, when someone is rude to your child they deserve to be put in their place. I am such a mama grizzly bear when anyone is rude about or to one of my children. Still …and they’re adults. lol

  • Nanette ~ AMomBlog May 11, 2011, 2:08 pm

    Great article! I shared on my facebook page.

  • Vesna May 12, 2011, 12:42 am

    2, 4, 5 & 9 winn for me- respond with an attitude to a rudders. I wish I had those answers when I needed them.

  • Maria Jacobs April 24, 2012, 7:43 pm

    Thankfully, have never experienced blatant rudness or unkindness. Lack of knowledge, curiosity, yes. I try to make these experiences a learning experience for the individual and it feels great to be able to share with someone what our journey has been. It took a long time but I have realized thhat no one can make me feel anything and this is something I am instilling in my child.

  • Natasha April 24, 2012, 8:12 pm

    Great article, hope it will make people think twice before being rude to children with special needs. Makes you think these people who are rude need help.

  • jason April 25, 2012, 12:36 am

    Let’s all practice ‘person first’ language please. ‘Child with special needs’, NOT ‘special needs child’.

    Thanks!

    • Ashley Wood March 18, 2013, 2:14 pm

      That was a great reminder. Sometimes, we forget how much our words or wording can hurt someone, and we’re not meaning to be rude.

  • Claire April 25, 2012, 7:17 am

    Comment I use often is
    I am proud mum of my child can your mother same thing about of you and your ignorance?

  • Joyce Holder April 25, 2012, 8:45 am

    I reckon my sister said it best when she came up with this. “disablilites aren’t contagious but ‘stupid’ is, parents give it too their children all the time, by not teaching them on how to be decent people, simple things like ‘dont stare’ used to be a basic lesson you taught children, not so much anymore apparently, by the sounds of it, time to stop the spreading of stupid and start educating.”

  • Eileen Morin April 26, 2012, 9:53 am

    My problem is the kids that stare…and keep staring at my daughter. She has special needs and has FEELINGS. Smile at her as she smiles at you. What I do..is stand in front of my daughter and stare right back..until they look away. My daughter has Trisomy 10p and it is rare. What is not rare are Rude people!

  • Jennifer June 29, 2012, 12:02 pm

    Joyce Holder – I couldn’t agree with you more! I grew up with physical limitations that were very obvious and because of people’s stares and rudeness I was very self consious. As I grew up I learned to tell the difference between the people who were curious and who were just plain rude. I have no problem explaining to people about my limitations (I refuse to call them disabilities!) if they really want to know. The rude ones that ask “What’s wrong with your legs?” I respond with “Nothing. What’s wrong with you?” That shuts them up in a hurry and I walk away feeling satisfied.

  • Delta July 1, 2012, 7:24 pm

    I was in a small crowd of women and the wonderful question of ” What is wrong with her?” I am thinking that some one’s child has been hurt and look over to what they were watching. It is my daughter. The question that is asked when ever someone is different from other children. After the shock wave it me I said, “Absolutely nothing, she is perfect and she is mine. Now what is wrong with you!”. My daughter has SPD and AD. She is very sensitive to other’s when it comes emotions and what she did was stop kicking the ball in the game so she could sit down and take care of the child that missed the ball.

    • Christina July 1, 2012, 10:31 pm

      Delta, that is so sweet of your daughter. I can picture my son doing something like that.

  • April September 14, 2012, 7:49 am

    I get when children stare they most likely do not know any better. When I have an adult stare it is down right rude. My son is 3 and has Down Syndrome. I get the stares and the quite talk. I always look at them and say yeah he is special needs what’s you excuse. They will walk away or they will ask me questions. My favorite is you are to young to have a child with Down Symdorme. The statistics show tht even though older women have children with down syndrome. Younger women though have baby far more often. So you chances of having a child with down syndrome is more.

  • Pam Long September 24, 2012, 3:32 am

    I have found over the years that some people come off as rude but they really just don’t know what to say. Being curious is a big part of who we are as humans. My daughter has cerebral palsy and is totally dependent on my care so I feel that not only am I her arms and legs but I also represent her voice. So I feel my job is to help educate people. If I notice a child staring and asking their parent what is wrong with my daughter, I try to use that time to educate not only the child but the parent that is usually at a loss of an explanation. I will sometimes make a joke about her wheelchair costing more than a really nice used car to break the ice. But I think if I react in a rude manner then the person that may have made a statement that was not the most sensitive to my child will then walk away with an attitude that not only is there something wrong with my child but I also must be so burdened by my child that it has made me bitter. I want people to see that she is the most special thing in my life and that I don’t love her any less than if she were “normal”. That she is also a person and even if she can’t talk or get around like everyone else she loves the same things we all do. So I try to make sure that what I say doesn’t allow someone to walk away with even more reason to be rude to the next person they may see with a disability. I think they need to walk away with a bit of the sunshine my daughter shines with her smile and a little education too. I have had many people actually thank me for taking the time to talk to them.

  • Laura September 28, 2012, 10:48 pm

    Pam, that is so insightful.

    My daughter takes awhile to warm up to people and typically hides behind me when addressed by strangers. Some people take it personally and then feel free to be rude to her.

    I can’t control their behavior but I can control mine.

  • Carol Bappert November 30, 2012, 7:03 pm

    Many years ago, I learned to say, “Something happens to everybody, if we wait long enough.” That made the rude people stop talking and think about their own families.

  • Kathleen Hallgarten August 29, 2013, 10:26 pm

    My adopted sister Maggie was special needs and in a wheelchair (spina bifida) and when on the Asbury Park boardwalk – some kids gathered and looked and pointed. Before I could say anything my brother – also adopted and the same he stood in front of her and said – “I know what her problem is – what’s yours?” He was 8 at the time. I then smiled and said hi and explained – at the time the late 1960’s children like Maggie were institutionalised. The children had no frame of reference and it was an opportunity to learn and share the ABILITY in the word disability.

  • Lyn Richardson August 30, 2013, 12:29 am

    ignorance is a challenge, I guess you have your hands full then

  • Terre August 30, 2013, 3:30 am

    I have had hydrocephalus since birth,and alot of times people who are the rudest are the ones who think they know more of your condition than you,tell you to get-over-it……..”well I will when your maturity finally reaches mine”…..considering the fact I have a basic education,and I don’t make tons of money,I still have enough intelligence to have been able to retain the skills to treat others with compassion….sometimes,I even consider writing this:”well..its nice to see lack of decency is alive and well.,including insolence,crassness,overall attitude of haughtiness,avarice,and…by the way,your false bravado and overblown sense of self worth are indicative of a poorly faceted mind,a bully….and a nasty person in general….you may want to call the local mental health facility for an appropriate examination of your narcissistic dysfunction…there’s your homework for the rest of your life read that,look it up and maybe you may learn compassion for another human being!!!!!”(I know this is verbose in it’s extremity,but I have had several people take a step backward,and hush instantly ,when they get told this!!!

  • Deanna August 31, 2013, 12:37 pm

    It is a hard thing because, I feel I probably “stare” when I see kids with sound reduction headphones or acting similarly to my son, because I am trying to figure out how it is working for them, how the parents handle situations like I go through, and also show a nod that their child is not invisible and to be ignored and avoided. That being said, I suppose it could come across as rude. I have always wondered if there was something to say, but think that would be rude also. So I look and try to learn and send my accepting thoughts and support their way.

  • Angela December 28, 2013, 5:50 am

    I am embarassed to admit 10 years ago I stared. Not out of rudeness but curiosity. Then my friend not only gave birth to a perfect son with down syndrome and then turned around and adopted another son with down syndrome. That prepared me for my own nephew. Now when I stare I’m smiling thinking “what a joy and happiness that child brought to his/her family.”

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