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Wanting to find a partner to share that with, to find someone who will love you and be there and make you laugh, isn’t unreasonable. According to National Center For Education Statistics, there were over 6.6 million students between the ages of 3–21 receiving special education services in 2014–15.
Add in children who aren’t yet of school age, homeschooled, undiagnosed, or otherwise are not included in that number, and it’s easy to see that meeting someone who has a special needs child is a real possibility. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are dating someone that has a child with special needs.
If you’ve been dating your partner for a while, it’s okay to ask about meeting our kids, but if we seem resistant or outright tell you we are not yet ready (or that our child isn’t prepared), accept that. Once you have met the children and/or you are heavily involved in the lives of the parent and the children, follow the lead of your partner.
You may have read all kinds of books, websites and other forms of research about our kid’s disability, but this book knowledge doesn’t teach you anything about our child.
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Also depending on the condition, the child may be overly excited, appear to throw a fit, or any number of other attention-grabbing, potentially embarrassing things.
If you are not comfortable with this or if you are bothered by the thought of dealing with this or dealing with the attention it may bring, consider that perhaps dating someone with a special needs child is not for you. Sometimes to prove that the idea of a special needs child doesn’t bother them, people will push to meet the child. As parents, we understand our children’s conditions and limitations better than you do, and we know our children best.
Plan dates in advance — give a parent with a special needs child at least 3–4 days notice.
Add to that that your partner is likely very stressed as a single parent of a special needs child, a working parent, and also trying to be your partner, and it is not likely that your comments will be taken as the constructive criticism you intend it to be.
It’s also entirely possible that you are basing your thought that the discipline is ineffective or inappropriate based on what would work for a typical child.
It also means being a friend to the child — finding things you share in common, having real conversations with the child (not just small talk to kill time while you wait for your partner), but most importantly: no discipline.
Again, you may have done all kinds of research, but reading books does not make you an expert on our kids.