Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dealing with relatives who don't take your child's special needs seriously: Group therapy

"I have one question, and it's a biggie," writes a reader. "HOW do you deal with a relative who insists that your child's special needs will 'pass' and that he'll develop on his own and that you're overreacting by getting him therapy? This only makes me want to overreact to her!"

Hive mind, I welcome you to weigh in.


  1. Basically you don't react. Figure out a simple response acknowledging that the relative obviously cares about you and your child (which may or may not be the case because they might just think you are getting all of the attention and they want some of it). Then state something along the lines, that you aren't willing to wait and see if he outgrows it because then it will be too late. At that point, change the subject, get up and move, what ever is needed to stop the discussion about you, your child and therapy. Do your best to not get visibly upset. Don't argue - you won't change their mind. Do this every time they bring up the topic. They might not ever get it. But congratulate yourself for taking the high road and modeling behavior you would want your child to do.

    While it is easy to say and much harder to do -- life is too short and precious to engage with the relative. Hopefully it won't get to the point where you have to avoid gatherings they will be at.

  2. In my opinion, you are the child's parent, not the relative. I would kindly and quietly explain how hurtful it is when this relative questions my decisions (and my doctor's recommendations). And how incredibly awful I would feel if I had the chance to improve my child's odds of improvement with therapy and didn't take it. Then I would politely say that I appreciated his/her concern but this topic is no longer open for discussion and change the subject.

  3. I don't have the same situation, but my mom, who had a child with an ID continually asks me (about my daughter who is missing parts of her brain and the oldest living person with her diagnosis is 32), "So do you think Kinsley will grow up, go to college, and get married?", like the same question every time we talk. I've always been nice and just say, "We've already accepted, and have come to terms with the fact that Kinsley's life may not be as long and full as everyone else's and it might be time that you start coming to terms with that too..." What I really want to say is, "You have a grown child with a disability. How would you feel if people were constantly asking you 'how is Sean's reading coming along?', or 'has he graduated from Harvard yet?'. It's funny how people who have lived a similar life still don't seem to have a filter on question, or they just don't seem to get it at all.


  4. I would consider asking, point blank, "Why, exactly, do you say that?" I suggest this because there are probably a handful of different reasons people have for this kind of statement or belief: 1. Disability is so horrifying to them that they refuse to accept it, 2. They only "believe in" certain very concrete, physical disabilities and view all others as potentially nothingburgers, 3. They actually think that there's something wrong with you, the parent, and your thinking and interpretation of things, and it's potentially hindering your child. Getting a better idea of what's on their mind might not be pleasant, but it might help dismantle the problem.


Thanks for sharing!

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