As a mum of children with special needs, I know I have walked out of meetings and thought, "Seriously? did I hear that correctly?" But I know that you often think you are alone or you've been made to feel slightly neurotic. As we have just launched our own workshops here at SNJ, we asked our readers, “What is the most annoying or stupid thing said to you about your child?”. We thought we would receive one or two comments which we could share with practitioners during our workshops as examples of bad practice.
The response was overwhelming. It was sad to see so many of you have had to listen to some really inappropriate and incorrect comments. It was even more depressing that for every comment, about four or five people would comment below saying, “Oh yes, we’ve had this one.” We wanted to share a few of them with you so you can see you are not alone, but also to show that we still have some way to go.
"Only special parents are given special babies like this." Just don't say it. It isn’t true and it doesn't help.
When telling people about my fight to keep him having the right education, non-SEN parents often say, "As long as he is happy," yet when their child is not having a turn at playing football they are the first to be there making a fuss.
"He doesn't look very Autistic does he?"
"If I had done that I would have got a good smack."
I saved all my baby clothes and equipment for a family member and when she had a baby I was told that she didn't want them, "In case it was jinxed."
"If you keep taking him to the doctors, he will think there is something wrong with him."
However, the majority of the comments our readers shared didn't come from family, friends or the general public. Some of the most ignorant words came from people who really should know better. Practitioners. We expect to have to educate our family and friends, but not the people employed to work with our children.
A Connexions advisor told my son never to aim high because he was too stupid (ADHD and Aspergers). 😥
A professional said to me, "My child does that," insinuating that the issue I was raising with them was normal childhood behaviour ... their child was diagnosed with Autism a couple of years later!
I was told that my 3 year old non-verbal child was, "Never going to amount to anything, you could throw money and interventions at a child like her, but it's a waste of resources and she would be lucky if she could manage a bus or stack shelves in Tesco's.” My baby girl is now a verbal, vibrant, vexatious, velo-riding, volcano!
I said, '"I just wish we could do things like go to a garden centre as a family, without him pushing toddlers over." Her best response to that was, "Maybe you could just consider going to the garden centre when he's not with you."
A social worker who came out to assess us told me that, "We all make our choices in life, I decided to have one child as I wanted the best for him and to send him to private school."
Headteacher at our local mainstream school, "All my Teaching Assistants are refusing to do DSA Training as it would mean spending more time with your daughter." (the school had 1 to 1 funding). Also, "They are here to wipe tables and clean out paint pots not to take SEN children to the toilet, some of them are going through the menopause, you know!"
An orthoptist told me (in front of my daughter who has down syndrome) that she had always thought if she was ever pregnant and found out the baby had Down's syndrome that she would terminate.
A senior social worker said to be before a meeting to talk about our respite package, "Do you wish you'd put them into care when they were born"? (I have twins with DS).
"We don't need to put in any provision without a diagnosis, even that provisional one!" - SENCO and HT
"You can't claim DLA before a diagnosis, schools don't need to do anything before a diagnosis. You can't get a statement without a diagnosis." - Family link worker.
SEN Education Officer, "Well, if we adapt your local school everyone will want their schools adapting." (for wheelchairs)
Was told by the head of a mainstream school that my son acted the way he did because he got his own way far too much at home. She had known him for a day!
SEN caseworker at our LA team, when questioned why they couldn't meet deadline to complete statutory assessment, 'Your son isn't the only child in this city!'
"Don't tell her she was a DS baby until she asks one day."
Our Portage worker said, and I quote, "There's nothing I can do, the best thing would be to lock him in a dog cage." She was deadly serious and then laughed, she even told this to the Early years Psych.
I was told to think ourselves lucky we got school transport' as I (the case officer) had to take two buses to get to school!
A specialist doctor once told me, "Einstein couldn't speak when he was young but your son is no Einstein."
Head said, "I know all about disability, I once taught a child with DS."
"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
Behaviour Specialist at junior school, "I don't think he can have Asperger's because he doesn't worry if his food touches each other on the plate."
I was told by a teacher once that my son brings it on himself. What she was referring to was the bullying and group beating he got.
I also found that no one knew who could diagnose ASD. I saw the GP who referred me to school, school referred me to the School Nurse, School Nurse referred me to health visitor, health visitor referred me to GP, GP referred me to CAMHS, CAMHS referred me to GP.
"It would waste the SEN panels time to have parents attend."
LA SEN Education Officer at first and only ever meeting, "If you plan on appealing we will see you before a panel at Tribunal..." This was before any assessments had been done, a draft statement issued or a school named.
Told by CAMHS, "We only see children who are medicated now."
Told by Head Teacher that my child must learn to conform.
Social worker said to me, "Your daughter can walk and talk, why do you need help?"
CAMHS: "He's too autistic for us to help him, as we deal with mental health, and autism is neurological, but he's not autistic enough to warrant a diagnosis."
"It's just because he is a summer baby, he doesn't look autistic but if he is it's only really mild , he will grow out of it."
My daughter's 6th form grammar school Head, when I asked him was he aware that being hearing impaired my daughter couldn't lip read and write notes at the same time - especially if he was wandering around the room, said, " Well she needs to learn to listen harder then doesn't she!"
A SENCo told me not to go for a Statement as they don't read them.
"I only ever read Part 3 of a Statement," once said to me by a SENCo in an Annual Review
I was told that if I ran my home like a school, my son would be no different to any other eight year old! (Head teacher of his first primary school)
The Head said it would be better if she did not have a seizure during assembly.
I was told by a manager of a carer's agency who were caring for both my children, "You must have been really bad in a past life."
The list was long, but the themes throughout were familiar, so many families said they could relate to several of the comments. Why are so many families still having to listen to these levels of inaccurate, inappropriate and inconsiderate views? Why should we have to?
Let's help these practitioners. What one piece of advice would you give to them?