When your child is a toddler, focus on all the things he can’t do. He’s not walking as soon as other children. He’s not talking as good as other children. It is embarrassing to take him out in public because everyone comments on his looks. Blame your spouse for his disability. Or, equally worse, blame God. Whey has He forsaken you? Why has He saddled you with this tremendous burden? Spend your child’s infant and toddler years lamenting the sadness, disappointment and loss.

As your child gets older and goes to school, always blame the teacher or the principal if he can’t do something. After all, it MUST be their fault. They are discriminating against your child if they try to make him behave or actually complete his school project. He has a disability! Doesn’t that come with the right not to have to do homework or obey the class rules?

Try to force the sports teams to let your son play, and they will. But your son cannot play soccer/baseball/basketball as well as the other children and he is humiliated by his poor skills and the disappointment from the other children when their team loses. Make sure to yell at your child for his poor performance. After all, if he didn’t have a disability, he would have made a great soccer/baseball/basketball player, and it is a horrible loss for you to admit that your son is a failure.

Argue with your partner/spouse over your son. You don’t both agree on the best style of parenting, so each do your own thing and teach your child that he is a constant source of distress between the two of you. Possibly get divorced. And blame your son. If he hadn’t been born, you would have had nothing to argue about.

You see your son as worthless…he can’t play sports, he gets in trouble all of the time in school, (as you have been his best advocate that he doesn’t have to follow the rules because he has a disability,) and he has minimal social skills. Do not be surprised when he turns to drugs.

He assumed that he was SUCH a disappointment that you would be better off without him. Do not be surprised when he takes his own life…

This rant follows a recent suicide of one of the students who is visually impaired with whom I worked. Like all adults who were a part of his life, I wonder where I was to blame. I tried in vain to impart my enthusiasm for a bright future for him. I tried in vain to make the parents realize that by setting their child apart they were denying their child an equal part in society. I tried in vain to tell the parents that their child may not be good at basketball, but he could swim spectacularly! Maybe he couldn’t play soccer, but give him a bowling ball, a bowling ramp and a lane of pins and he could get a strike two times out of four. He had such a way with younger children that I imagined him a teacher one day. But his parents did not see it. They only saw their own disappointment. Their own embarrassment at having a child who looked different. Their own anger at each other for the having “caused” this disability. They only saw their own feelings and never once stopped to think about how this was affecting their child. Their child who would never become the teacher I envisioned.

My suggestion to parents of children with disabilities is this: your child is a wonderful creation who, for whatever reason, was born with a disability. Rejoice in your child! Look for the things he CAN do, and incorporate them into your daily life. Plan for his education in a realistic, non-judgmental manner. Sure the teachers may screw up once in a while, but haven’t you also, at one time or another, misjudged your child? Try to keep the peace at school. You only meet with the teacher once in a while, your child has to go to school every day. If you and your spouse disagree over parenting, see a counselor who can help you work together. Most of all, find something in which your child excels and enjoys, and fly with it! Everyone wants to have success in life, and your child is no different. Whose to say one type of success if more important than another?



The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:


Comments on: "How NOT to Raise a Child with a Disability" (53)

  1. This is so beautifully and perfectly said. As a teacher, I agree with all of your comments and encourage you to keep on fighting the good fight.

  2. It is sad to see how parents treat their children. This applies to children who are disabled and abled. Many parents don’t realize how much they affect their children with their words and actions. We should always be loving, encouraging and supportive of our children no matter what their abilities. Children are all a special gift from God. My heart goes out to that student who felt it necessary to take his life and I pray that his parents will learn something valuable from their loss.

  3. Great information! I have purchased your book. 😀

  4. You really nailed it on this post. Of course it is an extreme case but nonetheless very moving and instructive. Thank you.

  5. Thank you for reminding us about all children being special and should be in the sight of those who love them.

  6. When my son wasn’t speaking yet (at almost 2) and the Dr asked if we wanted him checked out I was terrified about the outcome. We spent days and days trying to figure out what he wanted, crying with him because he was so frustrated that we didn’t “get it”. It turns out he was speech delayed and so with help from wonderful speech paths and a special pre-school he is doing great now. But I will never forget a day we went to book store and he had a break down. He loved to play with trains but for some reason, and we still don’t know why, he didn’t like more than one train on his tracks or anything else for that matter. There was a boy playing with the trains at the store and my son saw another train on the track ahead of where this little boy was pushing his trains. My son started to get upset and try to get the little boy to watch out for the other train. The poor boy looked scared and his mom told him to share the trains. She looked at me as if I should get control of my kid and I felt so small. I smiled and tried to explain that he just doesn’t like trains crashing and that it was fine. I scooped him up and we walked away and I tried to calm him down with a treat. I cried all the way home because I was afraid this was a look at the future for my beautiful loving, happy, fun little boy. I decided then and there that he would learn to communicate and we would work through this. Fast forward to today, he is almost 5 and speaks full sentences and loves crashing his trains now 🙂 He still gets frustrated and has moments where he can’t quite tell us what he wants, but we are encouraging him all the time. I look back and thank God that we didn’t just write it off and one of those things we will have to live with. I have a cousin who has Downs Syndrome and lives on her own and has a job and a ton of friends. She was never taught that she was different, just that she might have to work a little harder. They encouraged her every step of the way and I am blown away at how confident and vibrant she is…life could have so much different for both of them if we as parents just gave up.
    Thank you for sharing and encouraging me today. I am so sorry for the loss of your student and am praying for peace and comfort for everyone.

    PS…sorry this was a longer comment than intended 🙂

  7. I am so sorry for your loss..what a heart wrenching story..makes me want to cry over the injustice…I am not perfect..of course…but I do try so hard to do right by my son and I hope I will always remember your words..thank you for the reminders and again I am so sorry…j

  8. Yocheved said:

    Thank you for this post. Both true, and tragic. I try so hard to walk that fine line between pushing my daughter too hard, and giving her too much slack. Her strengths and deficits are all over the map, and it’s hard to tell sometimes when she’s trying to get out of something because it’s simply out of her skill range, or if she’s playing me and being lazy. (She admits to doing both.) I can’t help but feel like we’re all making it up as we go along.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your student, and for the world’s loss of his potential. {hugs}

  9. A very sad article; but also something very important to bring to people’s attention. Thank you for sharing this.

  10. Thank you for this blog! Our daughter is a wonderful creation from God, and I’ll continually reflect on your tips on how NOT to raise her. May God give you peace and strength as you mourn the loss of your student.

  11. What a heart-wrenching ending to a life full of possibility. Thank you for writing this…even as a professional who works with people with disabilities, reminders such as these are enlightening.

  12. Oh My Gosh, I’m so sorry for the loss of your student. And for how he felt. No child should feel like they are less than. None of us are perfect, but the harder we all try, the better world it will be.

  13. I so agree with you, too many parents want to make excuses as to why their child is rude and obnoxious. We need to teach rules and responsibility to them. He did not go as far as I we hoped for and he hoped for but if we had not tried, he would have gone no where.

  14. Your excellent advice can be applied to children of all abilities. Tragic that it takes such a loss to serve as a reminder. My heart goes out to all.

  15. I am so sorry for your loss. I am sorry for all of us, to lose such a special child.

    • Thank you so much. I want to be so angry at the parents, but anger is not a feeling I do well. Just a supreme feeling of sadness and even some sympathy for what they are going to have to live through for the rest of their lives. What wasted lives all around….

  16. Reblogged this on Ya-Ya's Musings and commented:
    There are so many people out there that could definitely use this. I wish so many could read this and realize what a special child (or what special children) are in their lives and just focus on that instead of the negativity. How horrible would it be to just accept someone for who they are? Why bully or make fun of them? How does that teach anyone good habits and morals?

    I applaud the woman who wrote this because she is amazing and a source of inspiration to me. Please keep sharing this and maybe this article will be able to help someone else as well.

  17. You are one amazing person! Typing this, the words seem so shallow. But it is true. You are an amazing person!

  18. homewardboundragamuffin said:

    Reblogged this on Inclusive Journey.

  19. AMEN…all so true!…and as a parent of now adult disabled child, I’ve been there! You’re GREAT!….Couldn’t have said or shared it better, myself! Keep up the GREAT work.

  20. Great advice… Wow…

  21. A powerful post and a reminder to savor the beauty of an irreplaceable child amidst the daily struggles of special challenges. Thank you for re-focusing me.

  22. What a moving post. It really remind me to support whatever past my kids pick. My hat is off to you being a teacher or special need children, it’s a job that’s over looked by so many but make such a larger impact. Thank you!

  23. Great post 🙂

  24. I ran away a lot when I was a kid, and skipped a lot of school. Not very many were surprised by the other things I did. Even my mother said she “expected it”. I love my parents and understand they just did the best they knew how. Reading your article puts me in mind of how parents with kids who have disabilities and highly intelligent children too, need their “me” time to compose themselves and need time spent just having fun. It never occurred to me that parents really say “Why me?” till I heard a lady speak about having a kid with autism (a different kind than mine) and it just shocked me. Anyone who loves God should know God is loving and doesn’t punish people. He blesses them. So it would be awesome if those who believe could draw closer to God and not see it as something wrong, but something different that they can teach the child how to use to a great advantage.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful words about your experience. I was lucky that I was raised with a brother with severe disabilities and learned from an early age that people come in all different sizes with all different abilities. It served me well.

      • I can see that. ^_^ Thankfully you share what you have learned with others. If more people do this, the world will benefit so much.

  25. This brought tears to my eyes! As a mom to 2 special needs boys, I can’t even imagine blaming anyone for their “short comings” let alone them! I prefer to call my children a blessing. Your post was beautifully written. I’m definitely going to be following you

  26. This is so sad, Linda. No wonder you feel such heartache over this situation, given how hard you’ve tried to help your own kids and other families fit into “normal” life. I’m sure you’ve saved a lot more kids from a similar fate over the years. Best wishes.

  27. What a powerful message…thank you. And I am sorry for the loss of that student you worked with. What a sad thing to happen. Sad for everyone who his life touched. XX

  28. what_what said:

    Sorry for the loss of the student you worked with, and I do realize this article was written with tons of sarcasm, but I am a bit concerned about everyone fawning over it.

    To wit, you wriite
    “As your child gets older and goes to school, always blame the teacher or the principal if he can’t do something. After all, it MUST be their fault. They are discriminating against your child if they try to make him behave or actually complete his school project. He has a disability! Doesn’t that come with the right not to have to do homework or obey the class rules?”

    Uh, not exactly. Ever hear of FAPE, free and appropriate education? Ever been to an IEP meeting where you are fighting for basic services? Ever hear of different learning styles, or behavioral decision plans that don’t take into account the child’s profile? Do you understand the difference between can’t and won’t?

    Maybe the parent’s mentioned in the story were sadly clueless and that made you very angry. Absolutely every child deserves success, and can find it with at least one of their special abilities. But if a child can’t self advocate, someone has to do it for him/her. That seems to be what is bothering you which I find troubling.

    • I am quite familiar with FAPE and assisted the parents in advocating for this child. He DID have a wonderful education with all of the bells and whistles and a great placement. What happened was, when this child started to slip away academically due to hanging out with the “wrong crowd”, his parents repeatedly blamed it on the school saying they were not providing enough services for his visual disability. In reality, he was well serviced in this area and could DO all of his homework and school work, just CHOSE not to do it because of his emotional state. Instead of getting assistance in this area, it was easier for the parents to blame others and ignore the real problem.

    • Also, regarding my comment that he needs to behave and do a class project, just because a child has a disability should not eliminate them from class rules. He had every ability to behave, just choose not to. He had every ability to complete a class project, but chose to blow it off. Neither of these things were related to his visual disability. Of course, if they WERE, I would have been the first one down their fighting for services…let me take that back…I have never had to fight for services, I just present the best options for my own children and for the children that I work with. I have been lucky in my experience in that the professionals with whom I work have always wanted what was in the best interest of my children. While originally we may not agree, with respectful give and take, a suitable solution has always been found.
      I wholeheartedly agree with you that every child deserves success and can definitely find it with one of their special abilities. (If you have any question of this, please read other posts on my blog…my own kiddos have serious disabilities yet all have succeeded.) For the boy in this post, his parents chose not to see his abilities but to focus on what he couldn’t do, which was fatally detrimental to this child.

  29. […] How NOT to Raise a Child with a Disability […]

  30. I have reblogged these sage words today at Better Endings.

  31. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

  32. I have three sons on the autism spectrum. I always knew that they were special and unique, but that was okay with me. They were actually diagnosed later with autism. I remember everyone calling and saying how sorry they were. I just didn’t understand that at all. They were still the same beautiful precious sons that we had brought home from the hospital. We just figured that we would have a few extra challenges to face, but at least we knew how better to help them. We have never looked at their diagnosis as a disability. We understand what their strengths and weaknesses are, but we work diligently with their school to put the best plan in place for their success. Never once have I heard our boys say that they could not do something because they had a disability. I have sat down with each of them as they have gotten older, and explained why things were a bit more challenging for them, but everyone has challenges that they have to overcome. I can say that our oldest son is a freshman in college (he actually got an academic scholarship to attend), and he even lives on campus. I must admit I was a little nervous, but he has done extremely well adapting to becoming more independent. Our middle son is a senior in high school, and goes half a day to high school, and then half a day to a really terrific school of technology, where he is working on becoming a mechanic. He loves to work on cars. Our youngest is a junior in high school, and is on the honor roll, and also is on the varsity football team. He doesn’t always get to play, but we are just proud that he works hard to be a part of something he loves. His coaches always tell me that they enjoy having him on the team so much, because he always works so hard, and never gives up. I told him that athletes will come and go, but character will last him a life time. I really think it is up to the parents to set their special kids up for success or failure. Neither my husband or myself blamed each other, or were bothered that they were unique or special. We just felt that God had entrusted into our care three extremely precious gifts, and we felt even a bigger obligation to help them succeed. Have I yelled at principals and teachers before. Yes I have. I will be the first to support them and back them up, but when our boys were being bullied, I had a few things to say. I pulled them out of school, home schooled them until we could place them in a better environment for them to succeed. I believe that kids have a right to go to school, and be safe at school, and receive the very same education as every other student. Our boys have always been integrated into the general classes, and never did we excuse them for not doing a home-work assignment or project. Did we sometimes have to help them out with them? Yes we did. Because sometimes it wasn’t clear to them what the teacher was asking them to do. We never did the project for them, but we would work along side of them to direct them while they did it. Sorry this is so long, but I get irritated at parents who don’t realize what a wonderful, unique, special gift they have been given with each and every child. We never had any set thing that we wanted them to become, but just for them to find the best version of themselves, and find that one thing to do, that made them happy!

  33. This should be a pamphlet handed to all new parents of a child with special needs. Sometimes you need permission and direction to be OK with ‘it’ when society and the ill supportive are so negative.

  34. Reblogged this on Love, Support, Educate, Advocate, Accept… and commented:
    Such a heart-breaking story, I am just speechless…

  35. RachellieBellie said:

    Reblogged this on My Puzzling Piece: A Glance Into A Puzzling Existance and commented:
    I believe that every Special Needs parent NEEDS to read this — a couple of times — until it sinks in.

    Our kids are AMAZING. We should be grateful for them and focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. Think of someone that ONLY views your weaknesses: is that someone that you want to hang out with? Or is that someone that you choose to avoid? Definitely something worth pondering over.

  36. RachellieBellie said:

    I had to reblog this, you are SUCH an inspiration. Keep them coming!!!!

  37. This broke my heart and inspired me at the same time. There are so many lessons to be learnt from this post! Thank you for capturing it all even though I imagine it must’ve been hard for you.

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