Tips for parents with special-needs children who act out in public


April 13, 2009|By KATE SHATZKIN

You'll remember that Jenn asked for help dealing with stares and intrusive comments she sometimes gets from children and adults when her special-needs son acts out in public.

Today, Mary Snyder-Vogel, a licensed clinical social worker who is assistant director of social work at Kennedy Krieger Institute, offers these tips:

* Take a couple of deep breaths to steady yourself.

* Try not to assume the worst about why a person is staring, meddling or giving advice. You could say: "My son has special needs, and we are getting professional help. Please don't make judgments about us. We are doing our best."

* Use the interaction as a "teachable moment." When stares or comments come from children (or adults), encourage them to ask questions. You could say: "I noticed that you were staring at my child. I know that sometimes people don't know what to say, but do you have a question? I'd be happy to try to answer it." Tell them a little bit about your son's diagnosis.

* Keep your sense of humor and concentrate on the positive gains your child makes. Tell everyone about them, even strangers. The more you can keep a positive perspective, the better you'll feel.

* Get to know other parents of children with special needs. Include them in your support network, share your experiences and learn other ways of coping with these situations.

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