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How I Try to Respond When People Ask 'What's Wrong' With My Daughter

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I read this question online the other day:

As a parent to a special needs child, do you get offended when people ask “What’s wrong?” when they see a trach or something out of the norm with your child? How do you react to the question?

I admit, I still bristle at the tactlessness in the question, even though adults should know better. (I don’t mind tactlessness in children; in fact, I expect it and welcome the chance to educate a young mind. But I digress.) When confronted, though, I try to keep in mind something my father has told me: “We’re not born knowing these things.”

This was an oft-repeated phrase. Whether it was in regard to my embarrassment in asking him something I didn’t know or something I thought someone else should know, his response was the same: “We’re not born knowing these things.” This is a piece of my father’s wisdom I try to carry with me. When he told it to me, it never applied to anything that had to do with special needs — but it applies here all the same.

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People have made being offended an art form. Some people seem to look for ways to get offended just so they can rant, complain, even be compensated in one way or another for the injustices (real or imagined) done to them. To be fair, there’s probably much I could consider offensive. But I prefer to spend my energies elsewhere. I find I get a greater return if I focus on being positive and encouraging my daughter to be friendly in response to rudeness.

This is, of course, an ideal. It’s something I strive for, but I don’t always succeed in doing so. We are, after all, only human. Sometimes it’s difficult (oh so difficult) to strike a balance between the people we are and the people we want to be. Emotions get in the way; we’re not always the logical creatures we pretend to be.

But the point is, we’re always striving. We’re always working toward our betterment. Every experience can teach us, if we let it. And if we’re not willing to educate others, how will they learn?

This post originally appeared on

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Originally published: April 8, 2015
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