A good place to get unsolicited advice include:
· Family members who have never helped care for your child with special needs
· Friends who don’t even ask “how are you doing” in this special needs journey
· People at church who see you struggle, but haven’t a clue what it took to even walk in that church door!
· And lest I say, I’m most certainly certain that I have given unsolicited advice where it wasn’t requested. I am so sorry, and I hope those people forgive me! (And now, here is what I try to do when I get that unsolicited advice!)
Pieces of advice from others at church have included:
· “I think you need to put your son (who got very sick every time he was in Sunday School and was ill for a solid 2 weeks) into the preschool church setting so he can get the germs to build up his immunities.” But in the meantime, he and I are totally out of commission for weeks, and sometimes months. Interestingly, a few years later, she had a child who had many allergies and health issues that kept him out of you know where: the church kids Sunday School.
· “Honey, he could probably walk down those stairs by himself.” (Instead of my husband or me helping/guiding him down the 3 stairs.) You know, you’re right, he could and often does walk down stairs, but sometime we “foresee” things and helping helps us not let the “bad” thing happen.
· “Sometimes you just have to leave them in a classroom even if they fuss or cry.” That might be true for some, but if a child has sensory issues, this is sheer misery for them, the teacher, and all the other children. Let’s think beyond just “our child” and consider everyone else.
Let me be the first to say that I have probably “over-protected” our son, “over analyzed” things people have said, and “over evaluated” the words of others and my own responses more than I should have. I have had more comments than these to direct me in how to raise our Joey, and with every piece of advice, I did consider it; but for the most part, unless someone has walked in my shoes, the advice probably isn’t going to be a perfect fit.
When a child with special needs enters the church, there is no one like the parents who knows and “gets” what their child needs. I knew that putting him back into the Sunday School setting would not only be awful for him but for our whole family (later in the day) and awful for the teacher and all the children for the hour he fussed. Getting sick every time…yes every time, would throw us all off for weeks. His sniffles would go into a cold, which would go into a asthma attack, which would go into bronchitis or other illnesses that changed our daily lives for weeks. I knew that not helping him down the stairs could cause a ripple affect of behaviors that I really didn’t want to “unleash” at church. Like trying to gather rolling marbles poured out of a jar was like trying to calm Joey down when he’d fall, skin his knee, and be embarrassed about it. Often there was no turning back to get him “back on track” to being pleasant once the course of behavior events got started.
So what I have learned, and try to follow for my own advice as well, is this:
· If you aren’t a part of the “care team” of this special needs person, don’t offer advice. Offer a smile and a comment something like, “Way to go!”
· If you’ve never met the person/family, don’t assume you have talking rights to them. Better than anything would be to offer a smile and say, “Is there anything I might do to help?” (If they want help, they’ll love this offer. If they don’t, don’t be offended. They do this 24/7)
· If you think you have something to offer, try this: Offer a smile and say, “Sometime I’d like to take you out (mom or dad) for a cup of coffee and learn more about your sweet family.” They’ll be shocked, but they’ll get over it and take you up on it!
· If you feel you must say something, don’t: JUST SMILE.
That smile goes a very long way!
Read Cindi's related post on our family blog!