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What The Parents Of Children With Special Needs Want You To Know

"She's taught me what is important in life: dogs, Cheetos and music."

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We recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to share what they wished people understood about their kids with special needs:

1. "Special needs children want to be included."

Flickr: striderbikes / Via Creative Commons

"Don't avoid inviting special needs kids to a birthday party just because you feel uncomfortable, and teach your children to include them at games. If your boys are tossing the football around, have them toss it to my son, too. Don't just stand there and watch as my son stares at boys his age who are excluding him. Special needs doesn't mean incapable."

— Angelica Guzman, Facebook

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2. "Don't say things like, 'I don't know how you handle it."

"I'm not 'handling' him, I'm raising my son, loving him, and respecting him. He is not a piece of meat to be 'handled.' He is an amazing blessing."

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3. "Please don't talk to me like I've got a massive burden or I've lost something special."

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"Saying 'aren't you afraid of her future?' or asking how I handle it isn't helping either. Because she's my child. I love her like almost every parent loves their child. I see the good through the difficult, I see her growth and potential. Speaking to me like she's something less than perfect is upsetting and insulting."

—Katy Shaw, Facebook

4. "It hurts when I'm excluded from play dates and mom dates. I know my children are difficult, but they're full of love. How many times can I lie to them about why they don't get invited to parties?"

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5. "It's so difficult to go through the process to get IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), and every year it feels like preparing for a hostile situation to fight for every support, especially if you have a limited or lower income."

Flickr: striderbikes / Via Creative Commons

"It took over six years for me to get my extreme special needs child not only a realistic IEP plan, but to get him into the therapeutic day school that his doctors said he needed.

I was so drained by the end of every IEP, because it felt like it was a critique of my child and my ability to parent. I rarely heard any positive feedback for my extreme special needs child and I would cry after every meeting for years."

Ladylei

6. "It's hard when I vent to close friends and family and they say things like, 'He's just being a 3-year-old' or 'He'll grow out of that."

"It's clearly a lot more than what people see on the surface. I know people have the best intentions, but it gets old and frustrating."

scnalley

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7. "That this never ends."

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"My son is about to graduate high school, and unlike most parents, my pride in this achievement is overwhelmed by the fear of 'What next?' His autism and mental illness will never go away, and I will be his caretaker for the rest of my life."

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8. "Just because my son is autistic and may not behave in a neuro-typical way, he has just as much right as anyone else to go and do what he wants."

"He loves going to the store, eating out, and visiting the zoo — just like your child."

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9. "Please keep inviting us."

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"Even though I may turn you down almost every time you invite us (or even just me) somewhere, please keep inviting us. I promise one day I will accept AND show up and it's nice to know you're still thinking of us."

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10. "I wish people understood how ignorant they sound when they inform me that my son 'doesn't look autistic.' I'm well aware of that, but it doesn't make him any less of an autistic child."

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11. "I wish you knew that I started out with all the same dreams and aspirations for my child as you did for yours."

Flickr: dherholz / Via Creative Commons

"As I realized the severity of his delay and the differences became more pronounced, some of those milestones have been adjusted. But I want all of the same things for my child as you do for yours. To experience a life of love, happiness and respect."

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12. "His autism makes him different, not less."

"I don't want pity or sympathy. I love my son, and he is amazing! People who act like my child is a burden on society and myself obviously haven't gotten to know him."

—Sarah Eno, Facebook

13. "My daughter with Down syndrome hates it when she catches kids staring at her."

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"Please be mindful of how hurtful it is to children with disabilities. Encourage your kids to say hello, wave, or even smile. You'd be surprised how something so small can make a child with a disability feel like they belong in the community and society."

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14. "Just because someone is 'different' doesn't mean they have 'less value.'"

My teenage daughter with Down syndrome may not have the intellectual abilities of her peers, but she has other gifts that some of them do not — the ability to accept others without question, to find joy in the simplest activities like grocery shopping, to give awesome hugs, and most importantly, to love unconditionally. These traits should be as highly regarded as straight A's or athletic ability. My daughter is not a mistake. She has immense value."

—Cathy Antonacci Wilde, Facebook

15. "My autistic son is one of the smartest people I've ever met."

Mariadubova / Getty Images

"We gave him a tablet last Christmas, and I always look through it at the end of the night. I saw that he kept going back to this one language site and realized he was reading the alphabet... in HEBREW! After some coaxing he finally recited it back to me in perfect succession. I want people to know that his minor setback does not defeat his passion to learn."

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16. "My 7-year-old son with autism helps me see the world in brand new ways every day."

"Plus, although he is mainly nonverbal, he has the best personality and is hilarious! My heart is far more full than my hands. I'm so honored God chose me to be his mom."

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17. "I don't want you to feel sorry for me or to tell me that my son will change over time."

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"I love him just the way he is and although most days are very hard to get through, I wouldn't change it for the world."

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18. "When my son acts up in public I don't need unsolicited advice; I don't need you to shake your head and whisper (loudly) about my appalling lack of discipline; I don't need to be judged for carrying my child in a sling everywhere for fear that he might run off into the street."

"Please, merciless strangers everywhere: consider the possibility that the parent you are judging knows what they are doing, and is doing the best they can for their child."

—Jacqueline Rose Greenberg, Facebook

19. "I'm nobody special."

Flickr: shipsou / Via Creative Commons

"I wasn't 'given' my special needs child because I'm somehow 'stronger' than other parents. The experience of parenting my autistic son doesn't make me infallible or improve my character as a human being. I'm frustrated. I'm terrified. I'm lonely. I cry a lot. I don't sleep."

—Justine Fitting, Facebook

20. "People underestimate how much time, effort, and money is sometimes needed to give kids with disabilities normal childhood experiences, as well as the resources they need to learn how to function in the world."

"And at every turn there are politicians, bureaucrats, etc. who put funding for special needs programming on the chopping block like it's nothing. You don't realize how alone and unsupported special needs families are until you're in one."

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21. "Friends and family of special needs kids: Step up and help out the parent(s) as much as possible."

Flickr: gerryshaw / Via Creative Commons

"Don't think it's the parents' job/fate/karma only. Help. Take the kid for the weekend so they can have two days of freedom and peace."

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22. "Finding a babysitter is harder than you can imagine."

"The reality of being a parent with special-needs kids means I have relatively few relationships to draw on. Add to that the fact that I need someone equipped to deal with their idiosyncrasies, and you have a babysitting pool of one or two."

—Laura Evans, Facebook

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