Special Needs Focus: Why I’ll Never Call it a “Blessing” That my Brother has Intellectual Disabilities
This isn’t going to be a popular opinion. I’m fully aware my viewpoint might offend some people, but I have to be honest. There are sayings I hear about people with special needs, and maybe I’m just too darn sensitive, but some of them rub me the wrong way. It’s all a matter of opinion, and even though you didn’t ask for mine, here are some of the statements I find irritating.
- “Having a child with disabilities is such a blessing.” I believe for some people it truly is seen as a blessing. More power to them, I’m happy for them. I can never see it that way because I know the pain it caused my brother and our family. It wasn’t as hard when he was an adorable, easy-to-manage kid, but as the years went on, his issues escalated, and it became more difficult. Any semblance of family “normalcy” disappeared and my parents were robbed of their “golden years.” And honestly, the statement seems mean. Why would I see another person’s pain, struggles, and challenges as a blessing?
- “Children with special needs are angels sent to teach the rest of us kindness.” I only recently saw this one on Facebook, and I felt an immediate aversion. If you need my brother’s disabilities to teach you to be kind, there is a major flaw in the way you’re living your life. We all have our own religious views, but in my version of a Higher Power, God isn’t a vindictive persona using people’s pain like this.
- “People with special needs are always happy.” This is such a stereotype, one that allows people to comfort themselves and pretend it’s all OK, but isn’t true. Like everyone, people with disabilities have their ups and downs and a full range of emotions. My brother went through years of unhappiness, times when he was angry at the world and everyone in it. Fortunately, he’s no longer in a dark place, but he is a human, complete with all levels of emotions. Don’t expect an automatic smile and hug just because he has intellectual disabilities.
- “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I referenced this in a blog I wrote last year called, Five Things NOT Say to a Family With a Special Needs Child, and I stand by it. Don’t dare say that to a parent who is at the end of their rope dealing with non-stop issues with their child with special needs. It’s patronizing and not at all helpful. Sometimes we DO have more than we can handle, and we need help.
- “I have a child with special needs, and I wouldn’t change a thing.” When I hear this, I often wonder if this person has really thought it through. Are they maybe only saying it to look saintly? Of course, you love your child as they are, but it doesn’t take away anything from that love to admit life would be easier for them and you if they were neurotypical. I know I’m only a sister, not a parent, but if there were a way I could change the situation to allow my brother to have had a “normal” life, I’d do it in a second. I would give anything to have spared him the suffering and pain he’s endured and give him the gift of doing everyday things most of us take for granted. I love my brother so much, why would I want him to have a life that’s been difficult? If the answer is to teach me to love, to care, or to be more understanding, then that makes me a total narcissist. I don’t need another person’s suffering to make me into a decent human being.
I am aware that people have nothing but good intentions when they say these things, so how can I get upset? I may be a bit of a sensitive snowflake, but along with that personality comes a ready ability to forgive. Are there sayings, stereotypes, or misconceptions about people with disabilities that make you cringe?