How can you use awkward stares and questions about your child to raise special needs awareness? Jo Ashline offers an example of what to do.

What do you do when someone stares at your child with special needs? What do you say when someone asks, “What’s wrong?” For most of us, those encounters have AWKWARD written all over them. But Jo Ashline, mom of a son with special needs and a blogger worth following, has a different take on the situation. She considers them an opportunity to raise special needs awareness.

Awkward Questions=Opportunity to Raise Special Needs Awareness

In a blog post, she relays the story of a mom who apologized after her child went up to Ashline’s son and asked “What’s wrong with you?” Here’s how she responded:

I don’t want you to apologize. I want your child to ask about my son Andrew; about what autism is and what having special needs means. I want your child to want to understand my child better. I want your child to be aware that someone with special needs is in their presence, and I want them to seek out information from a reliable source, such as Andrew’s brother, or myself, rather than relying on assumptions and misinformation.

I want your child to feel comfortable asking questions and know they will get a straight-forward answer. I want your child to know it’s okay to be curious and, more importantly, that it’s okay be confused about why Andrew acts differently from the other kids.”

Pretty amazing response, isn’t it? One every parent can adopt on behalf of their kids with special needs.

Squelching Questions=Special Needs Misinformation

Ashline comments about allowing kids to ask questions and seek information are spot on. During my teaching days, I saw kids without reliable, true information about special needs make up their own false information. Quickly, I learned that the best defense was a good offense. With the help of the parents of my students with special needs, we educated peers about their classmates’ special needs. And do you know what happened? Those informed peers became fierce champions of their classmates.

For more ideas about how to respond with grace in awkward situations and how doing so benefits our kids, read the complete article by Ashline. The title, “What’s Wrong with Him?” is Better Than “He Doesn’t Exist.”, hints at one of the benefits, but Ashline offers many more.

How Have You Turned Awkward into Special Needs Awareness?

How about you? Have you used an awkward moment to raise special needs awareness? What did you do? Leave a comment

Do you like what you see at You can receive more great content by subscribing to the quarterly Different Dream newsletter and signing up for the daily RSS feed delivered to your email inbox. You can sign up for the first in the pop up box and the second at the bottom of this page.

Photo Credit: stock.xchng