Does your child with special needs have an elevator pitch?

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance.”~Martin Luther King

Do you know what an elevator pitch is? I attend lots of workshops for bloggers and PR stuff, and it often comes up. It’s a succinct way of “selling yourself” in 2-3 sentences. It’s a term coined in the business world — think of yourself in an elevator with the person you are pitching to. You only have the time it takes to ride the elevator to pitch yourself, like an extended first impression.

Our kids need elevator pitches.

How many times are you asked about your child with special needs? What do you say? Of course it depends on lots of things for me — my mood, who is asking and why, their tone, the setting and so on. Mind you, I have perfected a snarky response to the question “What’s wrong with him?” My reply is “Nothing, what’s wrong with you?” But I’m talking about situations where a little less snark is necessary.

Show and inform

Here’s the thing — we are awesome parents, for the most part. Really, we are. But {sometimes} we are terrible salespeople when it comes to selling our kids assets. And we need to change that. Because over and over again, we run into scenarios where we are told that our kids just take and take from society and have nothing to give. And we all know that is just not true. We need to express it better and more often. There are still people who think that our kids are not worthy of an education, or only less education. That all they do is drain our financial resources and don’t give back. Our kids are not a burden to society; we just need to change some minds. Some people have to be shown and informed.

So for your child’s elevator pitch, think of 2-3 sentences that describe their best assets. Say it over and over, in the car, in the shower, anywhere. Rehearse it, perfect it, so you’re never caught off guard. Then next time someone asks you “Tell me about….” or a similar question, even with the best of intentions, even when you know they are primarily asking about their health situation or disability, even if it’s a teacher or clinician….start off with your elevator pitch. This will help redefine our kids.

When we know people are asking about our child’s disability, even if it’s in a positive and helpful setting-a doctor, a clinician, a teacher, another special needs parent — when our own first few sentences about our own child focus on their disability, that is the first impression and how we have inadvertently helped define them. As I have worked this way of thinking into my own conversations, it’s actually made it easier on me. When I know someone is asking about K’s disability, I have to do a quick brain scan of my own and decide what I want to say—do I want to get into the whole Genetics 101 thing or not? How much does this person want to hear? You know the drill.

K's elevator pitch

Now, I have a few sentences on the tip of my tongue, ready at all times. “Oh, K is such a great little kid. He loves swimming, dogs, Sesame Street, pizza and chocolate milk. He’s really fun to be around and loves comforting people. He has a great smile, people just love him and you should hear him sing, it’s very cute. He can also run a mile!”

Now, if I’m in a situation where the person is more interested in his health or skill level, they are then forced to ask about that. “Wow, that’s great. Can you tell me a little bit about how he is doing in school?” Fine. I will. But now I have set the tone–I do not define my child by his disability or by his skill set. Because even though we do not intend to do so, we do it. It’s not intentional of course, but our kids spend much of their time in a world where they are constantly being defined by their skills sets and disabilities. Constantly being measured against goals and objectives. Constantly being talked about in terms of what they can and cannot do, instead of who they are.  Our kids add lots of value to this world, we need to show that off more often.

Lisa Lightner is a Chester County, PA mom of two. This post is adapted from the blog  A Day in Our Shoes, a blog of support, resources and advocacy services for parents of children with special needs that she co-authors. Also see her bog Smart Spending Spot.

Categories: MomSpeak