Friday, March 20, 2009

What to say when your friend’s child has a developmental or speech delay

This post is a reflection of how I felt during the darkest part of this journey with Nea, around age 3. I feel a lot better now.

When I tell a friend or acquaintance that my child has a delay, the immediate response (from my experience) seems to be “oh, it’s not that bad.” A response meant to be reassuring. Unfortunately, when this is the trend of conversation after conversation, the effect is not reassuring, but dismissive. So eventually when a diagnosis is made (if it is made. Many parents go years or are left hanging indefinitely with no explanation of what is wrong with their child.), the gut reaction is a definite feeling of validation, along with the grief and other conflicting emotions. The
stages of grief that we usually associate with death are also applicable for divorce, job loss, familial estrangement, and accepting the possibly permanent limitations of one’s child.

Don’t say:

  • “Oh, she’s just a little behind. She’ll catch up.” This comes across as judgmental. It makes me feel like one of those hyper-helicoptering parents who can’t just let a child develop at her own pace and feels compelled to “fix” them.
  • “When she gets a little older the other kids will notice more and won’t play with her.” Gosh, thanks. I wasn’t worried about that yet. I feel much better now. Not to mention that this has absolutely not been a problem with the super-social child I have.

Never bring up:

  • Welcome to Holland
  • Einstein’s nonexistent syndrome
  • Some kid you heard about once, the friend of a cousin, blah blah, who just suddenly started speaking in full sentences one day when they turned 4.
Nea isn't Einstein. She won't suddenly just start talking. And I don't give a rat's ass about some kid you heard about. The phrase y'all are looking for is "That must be hard for you."

Now you know why I started playing
the game.

1 comment:

Kate said...

I have both been frustrated by this response (the grandparents have been awful with this!) but also, I'm sure, guilty of it myself. One wants to say something positive. And of course the best, and most positive, thing(because it is truthful)is to say how sorry you are. And that their child is wonderful.