Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Taking a Compliment

Why is it so difficult for us, as special needs parents, to take a compliment? I don't mean a compliment about ourselves, I mean those given to our kids.

I see it time and again. Someone says how happy they are for a child's progress, or what great strides are being made, and instead of those words just being accepted, they cause some to get defensive. As though saying how well a child is doing is somehow taking away whatever disability they have. Or that it questions how severe it is, or if it even exists. As though saying, yes, my child has made huge leaps lately, is admitting that maybe nothing was ever wrong.

I admit, I have done this myself. Especially when it comes to the school. I'm always afraid we're one compliment away from services being taken away. Oh, my child had a great day? Crap. Maybe they'll say she no longer needs XYZ. Oh, she's made huge strides since that last round of testing? Double crap. Maybe they'll try to take away the IEP!

It never happens, of course. Our kids make progress relative to themselves, and progress doesn't equal cure. It just equals progress. We should be able to agree when people say how well our kids are doing, without bringing up the difficult times. Without referencing prior test results. Without going on a mission to prove just how disabled they really are.

People telling us when our kids are doing great isn't them saying the disability was never there, or there wasn't a time when things were tough. I've complimented the progress of other children, and then felt bad because a parent got defensive. As though I, of all people, would ever challenge a diagnosis, or regression, or anything else. Saying how well a child is doing isn't saying they are typical. It isn't saying all their symptoms have suddenly disappeared, and they no longer struggle.

I think part of it is we live in a world where people do question whether or not we are just bad parents. If things like Autism, ADHD, and mental illness really exist, or if we have just somehow failed at raising our kids. I think that's why sometimes we tend to focus on the hard parts of life, because we feel we need to constantly prove that the disability is there.

The moral of the story is, if someone tells you your child is kicking ass, or doing awesome, or making progress in leaps and bounds, just smile and say, I know! Or, I'm so glad you noticed! They aren't questioning you, and even if they are, it doesn't mean we can't celebrate our children. They deserve to be celebrated for all their hard work, and that should be the focus. The good. Always the good.

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