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16 Respectful Responses to People Who Make Ignorant Comments About Your Kid's Disability

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As the parent of two kids with disabilities, I have heard my fair share of ignorant comments. Most people have not been intentionally offensive, and because I remember how ignorant I was before this was my life, I like to extend some grace.

That said, some comments we hear more often, such as, “What’s wrong with her?” or “Is she high-functioning?” test my patience. For some, I have come up with “scripts” for how to respond (and practice saying them) so when they’re said again, I am ready with an answer that educates and is still open and friendly.

For example, when people say, “Is she just a little bit Downs?” I respond, “Actually, Down syndrome is Down syndrome. You cannot have only a little Down syndrome or a lot. You either have it or you don’t. My daughter has an extra chromosome in every cell of her body.”

When people say, “I could never do what you do!” I say, “Of course you could, I just saw how much you love your kid, you would do whatever was needed for him. You and I are not that different, we just love our kids and do what we have to do based on their needs.”

And now that my middle daughter is 11 years old, we have even come up with scripts for her to say when people make comments about her cerebral palsy.

To learn more ways to respond to ignorance, I reached out to our parenting community here at The Mighty, and asked, “What are respectful responses that help educate and ‘bridge the gap?’”

These were their responses:

1. “That word is offensive to anyone with cognitive disabilities, their families and caregivers. It is no longer an accepted word in the medical and legal communities. Please don’t use that word or any connotation of it anymore.” (In response to the r-word).

2. “By using the word as a negative, you are suggesting people with disabilities are something negative or something to be avoided or disgusted by. Please try and use a word that doesn’t attempt to lower the value of someone else’s worth.” (In response to the r-word).

3. “His brain is wired differently and getting from step A to B sometimes means he has to really go from A to Z.”

4. “Sometimes not answering is the best answer.”

5. “Nothing is wrong with my baby, she’s just small for her age. Her back didn’t grow in the same way so her chair is her legs.”

6. “You can talk to him like you would any other child… He’s not invisible.”


7. “We all learn differently, and we are all good at different things.”

8. “She can’t talk and is very tired.”

9. “Why are you sorry? Disability is natural — always has been, always will be.”

10. “Hi, do you have a question?”

11. “Hello, this is my daughter. She has Apert syndrome, which means that her bones grow differently to yours — that’s why her face looks different, why her hands look different. But underneath she is just a normal little girl. She likes playing with her dolls and watching her favorite shows. What’s your favorite TV program?”

12. “He is not a ‘picky eater,’ he has sensory processing disorder.”

13. “Our prayers have already been answered.”

14. “I speak with a computer, please give me a moment to respond.”

15. “He is not a baby. He is 5 years old and is a little boy.”

16. “I love my son, differences and all, and I have never considered him a burden.”

How have you responded to ignorant comments that help educate and “bridge the gap?” Let us know in the comments.

Thinkstock image by BrianAJackson

Originally published: July 18, 2017
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