Some things should be common sense. So it would seem. However, when your child has struggles with a disorder that causes frustrating behaviors, sometimes you get some strange looks, and you definitely get some off-beat comments. Today, I am sharing the top 10 things you should never say to parents of a child with sensory processing disorder.
I want to start by saying that before I knew about sensory processing disorder, I probably said some of these things too. In fact, I want to admit that there are times I still think them in my head when I am self-doubting everything we are doing to help our son. So, that’s the real reason for this plea.
You see, parents of a child with sensory processing disorder are fragile. We carry a lot of guilt and we are constantly wondering if it is our parenting skills our our child’s ability (or inability) to process information. These phrases just cut us down and add to that guilt. They make our skin crawl and they make us want to scream.
Rest assured, though… those screams are screams crying for acceptance not screams of hate. In fact, we are screaming because we want so badly to explain what our children need to strangers like you and our loved ones, but it’s just so hard.
Top 10 Things to Never Say to Parents of a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
“It’s just a phase.” | No, no it is not just a phase. A phase is liking a red shirt over a blue shirt. A phase is not screaming because your socks don’t feel good.
“He’ll grow out of it.” | He will grow. He will change. It is our goal to help him learn how to self-regulate, but he can’t “grow out of it” on his own.
“All kids do that.” | You are right. All kids have sensory processing preferences. However, it doesn’t keep all kids from going to the grocery store, a public bathroom, or a birthday party, does it?
“She just needs more discipline.” | Oh, believe me… we have tried all kinds of discipline. In fact, we still parent her, we’ve just learned what is sensory related and what is her pushing buttons.
“Back in my day, that was called “being a kid”. | Back in your day, we didn’t know as much as we know now about the human brain and sensory processing.
“She looks so normal.” | She is normal. Thank you. However, her brain works differently than her peers.
“Your kid doesn’t look autistic.” | Let’s not even go there.
“He knows exactly what he is doing.” | Maybe. Most likely not. Either way, we are working on teaching him socially acceptable ways to manage his reactions.
“He just needs to run off some energy.” | Have you seen our house? We have a swing, a crash pad, a trampoline, a climbing wall, a sit and spin, sensory bins, and ropes… I am not sure “getting his energy out” is all that is needed.
“If he was my kid…. “| But, he is not. Please don’t tell me I should spank him, ground him, reprimand him when you don’t know what we’ve been through.
This is just the tip of the iceberg to the things that I hear on a daily basis. Here’s the thing. I know that the people saying these things to me just don’t know any better. They have never had to love a child with sensory struggles (or they didn’t know that was what they were dealing with). They have never had to endure the pain of trying absolutely every parenting strategy only to be left with frustrations. They have never had to watch their child sit in agony over a pair of socks.
I could end this here and be done. Say my peace and feel like I have done my part. However, I don’t think that is enough. I want to help educate. I want to help spread awareness until there is acceptance. So, I have gathered 10 things you can say instead if you ever meet a parent with a child with sensory processing disorder. THEY WILL THANK YOU .
Helpful Things to Say to the Parents of a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder
She seems to be struggling with something…
How does that affect her day to day?
I know you’re a good parent.
We should get coffee sometime so I can learn more.
How can I support you?
Now that I know, what can I do to connect with him?
You’re doing a great job!
I’m here for you.
I believe You.
That last one. “I’m here for you. I believe in you. ” Those words are so powerful and mean so much, especially to a parent who feels judged, worn down, and alone. So the next time you meet a parent of a child with sensory processing disorder, stop before you respond with “if he was my kid…” and replace it with “I’m here for you. I believe in you.”
“Luckily no one ever says these things to my child. They just say them to me,” says a parent from our sensory support group. Unfortunately, that is not the case as the children start to get older. Here are10 phrases to stop saying to someone with Sensory Processing Disorder.