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."
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."
3. "Please don't talk to me like I've got a massive burden or I've lost something special."
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?"
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."
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."
7. "That this never ends."
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."
9. "Please keep inviting us."
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."
11. "I wish you knew that I started out with all the same dreams and aspirations for my child as you did for yours."
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."
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."
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."
17. "I don't want you to feel sorry for me or to tell me that my son will change over time."
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."
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."
21. "Friends and family of special needs kids: Step up and help out the parent(s) as much as possible."
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