Questions to Engage the Parent of a Child with Special Needs
Engaging the parent of a child diagnosed with a neurological disorder or significant developmental delay can be intimidating. It is sometimes hard to gauge how much a parent wants to share about their child. In addition, it is not uncommon to learn that one parent is at a different place of acceptance for the diagnosis than the other parent. For example, what a mother is willing and even wanting to share may be different when she is alone versus when her spouse is present. While every family’s journey is different, it is not uncommon for a father to work through the emotional ramifications of a special needs diagnosis differently and after the mother.
It is also worth noting that simply using the term “special needs” or “disability” can be prickly. The term itself can conjure negative images of a child with perceived limitations beyond what a mother may envision for her child. And very often the long term effects of a diagnosis may be relatively mild. As a result, it is sometimes best to talk to a mother about her child without using the words “special needs” or “disability”.
If a parent shares anything about their child that reveals they have a diagnosis or recognized challenge, it is usually safe to assume the parent welcomes an open dialogue. Very often conversations about their child and their family’s experience can be healing for parents. Christine Hoover shared this excellent list of discussion starters for anyone to use as they engage such a parent. If you sense a parent could be sensitive to any “special needs” or “disability” references, then use these same questions while omitting those two terms. – Amy Fenton Lee
- Tell me how you discovered your child had a disability?
- What things have you found to enjoy about having a child with special needs?
- What has God taught you through your child with special needs?
- What are the challenges you face as a parent to a child with special needs?
- Do you ever feel overwhelmed?
- How can we as a church support you?
- Would it help your child to receive a tour of the building and his classroom before his first Sunday in our program?
- What are your child’s strengths? What does he enjoy doing?
- What kind of struggles does your child have because of his disability?
- How does having a child with a disability affect your other children?
- What progress have you seen in your child since his initial diagnosis?
- What treatments or therapies have been successful for your child?
- What concerns do you have for your child’s future?
Like this post or any of its content? See the blog entry “Rules for Repost”
– Christine Hoover
Christine Hoover is a church pastor’s wife and mother of a son diagnosed with high-functioning autism. For more on Christine Hoover and her writing, see findinghopeinautism.blogspot.com
For more on supporting a family through a special needs diagnosis, see K! Magazine’s July/August 2010 and September/October 2010 issues. The magazine is running a two-part series I wrote after interviewing approximately 60 families who had received a difficult diagnosis for their child. These interviews revealed practical guidance for any staff member or lay person on how to minister to and what not to say to a family of a child with special needs. To order K! Magazine, go to www.kidzmatter.com.