Support for a special needs parent is not an easy feat. Unintentional aggression may be taken out on you and you may sometimes be used as a verbal punching bag from that parent that needs to vent. Your support is very much appreciated and here are some ways that you can be an even better support system.
1. Eliminate the Extra Excuses
As a special needs parent, we know that our support system has a life of their own. If we have something coming up where we need some help and you’re not available, simply saying “Oh I’m sorry, I can’t help you on this one” is all that is needed. There is no need to go in to added detail. The worst thing you can do is say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I can’t help because my back is really bothering me right now” or “I wish I could help, but I have a hair appointment”.
That special needs parent that has asked for help is more than likely dealing with 24/7 back pain and never has time to get their hair done, yet alone a free moment just to relax. When you add the reason behind why you can’t help makes things a bit uncomfortable, and for some, that special needs parent may even get a little jealous. So the next time you’re asked and can’t help because of a conflict, just leave it at “No, I’m sorry, maybe next time”.
2. Avoid Assumptions
Although you are the support system, you see a lot looking from the outside in and there are still several things that you may not know. If you’re put in a predicament and are unsure of how you can help, just ask. For example, let’s take the first rule above. If you say “No, I can’t help” only because you assume you are not capable, you’ve already failed that parent as their support. Don’t make the assumption that the special needs child is too heavy, that the wheelchair is too big for your car, or that you don’t know how to communicate with the child. If those are unknowns for you, just ask.
There are several instances when non-verbal children can understand basic sign language. That wheelchair that you assumed was too big actually breaks down in pieces and fits perfectly in a car trunk or even the backseat. Oh and that child that you thought was too heavy…well, they actually can handle weight bearing, so you won’t be lifting as much as you thought. Assuming can break the trust and confidence that a special needs parent has in you all because you simply didn’t ask a question.
3. Don’t be “Dr. Support Team”
Special needs parents spend several hours in doctors offices and at home wondering the how’s, why’s and where’s. Let’s say that parent invites you over for a “woo-sah” day to relax on the balcony or take a brisk walk to “escape”. The last thing that parent wants to hear is about the episode you saw on “The Doctors”, or that article that you read on WebMD. There is a time and place for conversations like that. The best thing you can do is hone in and listen for keywords from that parent. Things like “I really need to do more research on XYZ because we have an appointment coming up” or “Darn, I’ve been so busy, I still haven’t looked at the website Dr. So-and-so mentioned to me”.
That, my friend is the perfect time for you to bring up all of those findings that you’ve stored in your head (or support system notebook). The time you spend thinking about the special needs child is not taken for granted, however, just remember, special needs parents are individuals as well and there is no need to try to fix the problem every time you see them especially if they just want to relax for a moment and mentally regroup for a little bit.◊
Check out my latest YouTube video where I have an encounter with “family” on some of the rules mentioned above ♥