How to Respond to Unhelpful Comments: Top 10 Comeback Lines For Individuals With Special Needs

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It happens sooner or later to just about everyone who lives with a disability: someone will say something nosy, rude or truly offensive.

It may help to have a response prepared for that day.  Having that comeback line at the tip of the tongue gives a little edge of confidence that actually prevents people from saying rude things in the first place.  Here are ten simple responses that work in real life situations.

See also 10 hurtful comments from relatives about your child with special needs

10. “Excuse me?”  Miss Manners says that this is always the most polite response.  It causes the person with the original comment to pause and re-think his words.  If he repeats the rude comment, simply repeat in a sweet voice, “Excuse me?”  Keep going with it until the light bulb switches on.

9. “I’m sorry that my (or my child’s) permanent disability has caused you a temporary inconvenience.”  One of my buddies uses this line, and it is a conversation-ender.

8. “Thank you for your concern.”  With a smile.

7. Silence.  With a smile.  And walk away.

6. “Why do you want to know?”  Sometimes it is necessary to answer a question with a question, especially when you are cornered by a personal question on a delicate topic.

5. ”Why would you say that?” Force them to think about what they just said.

4. “Nothing is wrong with her.  Is something wrong with you?”  Ask with genuine concern, without sarcasm.  Often the person is asking because of a family member with a similar condition.

3. “Yes, he can talk.  He can also hear and understand everything you say about him.” For just a little guilt trip.    

2. “I respectfully disagree.” 

1. “I have (or my child has) an equal right to be here.” This is the line I’ve been saving all these years – but I’ve never had to use it in any of the many, many awkward public situations I’ve found myself.  My belief in equal rights is what makes me stand taller.

What is your standard response to unhelpful comments or questions?  Please share in the comments below.

Karen Wang

Written on 2013/04/04 by:

Karen Wang

Karen Wang is a Friendship Circle parent. You may have seen her sneaking into the volunteer lounge for ice cream or being pushed into the cheese pit by laughing children. She is a contributing author to the anthology "My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities"