What Would You Put on Your Special Needs Parent T-Shirt?

I noticed a tweet the other day from another mom on Twitter, @littleabner_amy, about a beloved t-shirt she owns. It’s not made of fancy silk and it doesn’t make her boobs look great or anything like that (although who knows, maybe it does make her boobs look great, I’ve never met the woman). It’s the above one that very clearly states: “My child has autism. Questions are appreciated, parenting advice is not!”

LOVE that.

Soon after, I spotted a tweet from @JenniLeeBlack, a blogger and mom to a super-adorable little girl with Down syndrome, who mentioned a town parade she’d been in for the Fourth of July. She loaded up kids and families onto a wagon with signs tacked onto the sides that read: “Don’t DIS my ABILITY” and “More ALIKE than DIFFERENT.” She told me she’s planning on getting the latter made into a t-shirt.

LOVE that, too.

I’ve heard of parents of kids with special needs handing out calling cards; one mom in the book Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid had a card made up for her son that read: “Ask me about my autism. (I’m nonverbal, so I may not answer.)” That’s a good idea, but I like the idea of a t-shirt parents can wear. Plenty of times when I’m out with Max, I could seriously use one. Especially when he’s screeching and I feel as if people are looking at us and thinking “What a bratty kid!” and “What a crappy mother!”

One of my pet peeves is when people stare at Max, especially when he is behaving just fine. His lack of typical speech, the drooling—some people just blatantly gawk. Max doesn’t yet notice it, but I do, and it drives me batty. Because it’s so rude and because it’s so wrong. That’s when I’d be glad to have a handy-dandy message tee. Amy got her “My child has autism” shirt at Cafe Press, which has all sorts of shirts for all sorts of special needs (though I think the ones about autism are the coolest of the bunch).

“I notice you’re staring at my child, is there a problem?” is a little too in-your-face to have on a shirt, though I’ve been known to say it. What I’d want my shirt to say: ”Staring never helped a child. Just say ‘Hi.’”

What would you want your t-shirt to say?

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  1. by Leigh

    On July 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I’ve been wanting to get at least a couple of different shirts like those at Cafepress…I have some Autism shirts but they’re all about autism organizations or events. I’d love to have a in your face tshirt so people will wake up. After all it’s all about awareness. :)

  2. by Karen (SubMommy)

    On July 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Mine would say, “She’s not ignoring you – she can’t hear you.”

  3. by Paula schuck

    On July 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    I love these and think they can be modified for several different abilities/disabilities. I would like one that said:
    I speak SPD. Ask me to translate.

    Or for Dd: mommy speaks SPD. Ask her to translate me if you are stuck.

  4. by Shan

    On July 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    LOVE Cafe press!! And they may have the shirt I’d like but I don’t remember. The other day we went to eat and I was carrying my son, but pushing his wheelchair. My friend was like “his chair must be amazing because the people at that table can’t stop staring.” I just laughed it off but then told my friend “well if you stare hard enough it will shoot rainbows out of it!” I have no clue why I chose that. But I would want a shirt saying something along those lines like…”it’s just a chair but if you stare hard enough it may do a few tricks!” idk, that may be rude, but it’s definitely how I feel sometimes!!

  5. by Ellen - To The Max

    On July 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Loving these ideas! Shan, another mom once commented to me that she wanted to get her son a t-shirt that read “If you stare hard enough, I might do a few tricks!”

    And yes, Leigh, it’s all about awareness…and also making people aware that it is rude to stare!!!

  6. by Julie Z.

    On July 6, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Just saw one on Cafe Press that I like a lot. It says, “You laugh because I’m different. I laugh because you’re all the same.”


  7. by Jen Black

    On July 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    Great job Ellen!
    For those who don’t know, ours say “my kid has more chromosomes than yours does!”

  8. by Jen Black

    On July 6, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    PS: Thanks so much for including a link to my blog. Much appreciated!

  9. by holly

    On July 7, 2011 at 9:58 am

    i love that there is an article like this! i just started embroidering on adult and kids items with disability related themes. im donating $1 from every sale to easter seals.

  10. by diana

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:04 am

    My friend’s son has a shirt that says, “Spock isn’t a Vulcan. He just has Asperger’s and pointy ears.”

  11. by Valerie

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

    “Every Child Deserves A Voice”

    My Daughter Has Apraxia
    That is Why She Is Difficult to Understand

  12. by Jackie

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:05 am

    There are days when I would like a shirt that says, “My daughter has severe brain damage. What’s your excuse?”

  13. by Shannon

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

    My boys feed off of each other. They both are on the spectrum. My three year old hates stores and his meltdowns bother the seven year old’s ears which then send him into a meltdown.

    I have always said that I would love to make a t-shirt that said, “Before you stare, before you say anything, these children are Autistic.” I also like, “How does it make you feel to know that you are judging my Autistic children?”

    In regards to being rude, it concerns me too but then I think about how many times I have left a place in tears because people are staring, pointing, or making comments because the boys are screaming. Aren’t they being rude?

  14. by Melody

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

    When my son had surgery on his feet I would have liked a shirt that said “I didn’t break his legs the doctor did.”

  15. by kadiera

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Still contemplating a baby onesie from zazzle that says, “mommy eats doctors for breakfast” to tape to baby girl’s bed in the nicu. That seller also has shirts about trachs, mito, feeding tubes, and more. I should have gotten my son the shirt about blowing bubbles from nose, mouth, and trach.

    Some days, though,I just want a shirt that says, “there’s nothing wrong with. My kid, what’s wrong with you?”

  16. by Jennifer

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I always say this because I get comments on how soft spoken and quiet I am.

    “I may be quiet, but you mess with my child and the Lioness will eat you for breakfast!”

  17. by Kristeen

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I have a T-shirt that says “yes, you can ask me about autism!” and my son has several, including one that says “I have autism and I’m AMAZING!” and one that says “I have autism, please be patient”. I find them very helpful at the park or other public places.

  18. by Catherine Hernandez

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:52 am

    My shirt would say ” your staring at my sister, but it doesn’t make her feel bad because she doesn’t see you.. but I can. So just ask!”

  19. by Heidi

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Oh my gosh my list is forever long!! My fav I have came up with is a camara on the shirt and then I want to say. ” would you like my camara or would you like educated….. Autism awareness”

  20. by Mama Apples

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:55 am

    For people who are condescending and judgemental, I want one that says I Have 3 Kids With Autism AND I Teach Middle School–Are You SURE You Want To Talk To Me Like That?

  21. by Kim Falzarano

    On July 7, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Mine for my son would say…I may not talk but I CAN understand you!!!! or Just cause I cant talk doesnt mean I cant play….

  22. by Melody F

    On July 7, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Autism explains my child’s behavior
    What explains your rudeness?

  23. by Patricia

    On July 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

    My son has a SEVERE stuttering problem.. His shirt would say “I can think faster than I can talk, just wait and what I say will amaze you!”

    Mine would say “He’s probably smarter than your kid, just wait…. ”

    I know -mean, but like all the other moms said, sometimes the junk people do/say are much worse.

  24. by monica johnson

    On July 7, 2011 at 11:41 am

    My kids have learning diabilities- stop braging about smart your kids are– I bet you mine are much cuter and nicer…—- (my ideal t-shirt)

  25. by Misty Russsell

    On July 7, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I LOVE all these ideas!! And not to mention people are extremely rude, and turn around and get offended when you mention ANYTHING to them….

  26. by lazandra yates

    On July 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Because of the rude behavior and crazy looks sometimes, my t-shirt would say: “My son has Autism, what’s you’re excuse?”

  27. by Michele Hasting

    On July 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    “It takes a special kind of mom to raise a special Angel with autism… and God above deemed me worthy of the blessing. ”

    “She has Autism. If you think her behavior is bad, wait till you see mine… ” I have put on a canvas tote so I can take it with me every day.

  28. by Jaimie

    On July 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I’m a teacher at a school for students with dyslexia, and the t-shirt for the school says “Dyslexia: It’s a brain thing.” All of the kids love them.

  29. by Karen

    On July 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    My relative was finally diagnosed with Williams Syndrome. He was 59. Part of this syndrome is they are highly sociable. When I would take him out, he would extend his hand to a stranger and say his name. Some would shake it but alot would just stare or ignore. I would have worn a t-shirt that says” DON’T WORRY. YOU CAN’T CATCH IT”.

  30. by Shannon Des Roches Rosa

    On July 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Our mantra is “Autism: We’re here, we’re quirky, get used to it.” I probably should make some tees!

    Personally, I prefer to carry a tote with a great big autism organization logo on it (my current fave is from the Autism Science Foundation). It gives folks a cue as to my son’s need for consideration. It also lets bystanders know that we’re not trying to fly under anyone’s radar — and that we’re invested in supporting Leo, his future, and the autism community. A big statement for a patch of canvas. :)

  31. by Drew_Bear

    On July 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Some of my favorite ability awareness t-shirts are ‘Everyone Belongs’ and ‘Focus on what we CAN do’ – they are just general awareness ones…

  32. by jrossigrl84

    On July 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    My little guy has a shirt with an octupus on it that says “having autism means having to swim against the current” I’d love to wear the shirts that say “my child has autism, whats ur kid’s problem?” or “staring hasnt cured one case of autism, yet” but most days, I would rather not offend people. I’d like to educate them. Autism isn’t an obvious thing. there are no physical markers that lend to a little understanding from onlookers. Instead I’ve dealt with hundreds of eye-rolling, head shaking, mumbling under your breathe folks who just no they could straighten my kid out.

  33. by Crissy

    On July 7, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I have 4 kids.

    My oldest son (3 at the time) had SEVERE viral esophagitis that was not diagnosed in time and nearly cost him his life. It was caused by an incurable virus so he will have to deal with it off and on for the rest of his life. By the time he came home from the hospital he was on morphine for pain and had a NG feeding tube from his nose,because he couldn’t eat anything by mouth. Because he was so active it also required a lot of medical tape to hold it in place which made it even more obvious. Everywhere we went we had kids politely ask him what the tube was for but parents wouldn’t let their kids near him and pointed gawked stared and made very loud rude comments to the point where he was terrified to go out in public, he wouldn’t let go of my hand and I had to walk in front of him so nobody would see his tube. Even pharmacists would lecture us on how dangerous it was to have a child so young on such strong pain medicine. I frequently had to explain the medicine is so strong because the pain is so strong. Whenever we had to take him into the ER to get his tube re-inserted if it came out dr.s would lecture me about teaching him to eat by mouth already because of course a 3 year old should be able to by now. I couldn’t believe it! I just wanted to SCREAM from the top of my lungs there is nothing WRONG with my child but obviously there is something very wrong with you if you feel the need to judge a 3-year-old for something that is out of his control. He has been lying in a hospital bed for over a month being poked, prodded, having treatment after treatment, and getting cameras inserted into his body he FINALLY gets outside and your behavior is making him wish he was right back in the bed.

    I looked everywhere for a shirt for that said something along the lines of “I’m not an exhibit in a sideshow, I see you staring at me and if you can’t be respectful my mommy will come bite your head off and give you something to stare at!”

    My now 3 year old has ADHD and has no impulse control, and sever meltdowns, and has a stutter. He needs a shirt that says “My brain works faster than my body. I’m patient with you when your brain has to catch up to me, be patient with my while my body catches up!”

    Now I also have a child that had oxygen deprivation at birth and has minor brain damage. He looks completely normal and behaves completely normal but his motor control is behind other kids his age. He does not talk and cannot walk, and is very chubby in certain areas. All the time people make comments on how I need to stop letting him be so lazy and teach him how to walk, get my kid on a diet, or that I am a lazy parent who is holding my child back.

    I want a shirt that says “He may not walk and he may not talk, but he will dazzle you with his smile and can crawl faster than you can run! Give him a break he had a rough start!”

    when I was pregnant with my 4th people would say “if you couldn’t get a healthy kid the first 3 times what makes you think the 4th would be any different” for those people I would like a shirt that says “God gave me special kids because I’, a special mommy.”
    and “my special needs kids behave better than your ‘normal kids’ do you really want to give me parenting advice?!”

  34. by peggy

    On July 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Why do all the t-shirts have to be so insulting? Opening up communication with people who don’t understand these disabilities or the feelings that go with raising special needs children will do more to help the children in the long run. If I read a t shirt like that, I feel insulted not enlightened. “I like you BECAUSE your different” or “be patient with me..I’m a work in progress”
    As a special needs support person I am as patient with the people who don’t understand as I am with the child…this helps close the gap

  35. by Idonna McNay

    On July 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    i work with childern with autism and if i could make a shirt it would say “Autism speaks ask questions dont stare or make snide comments”

  36. by C

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    “Many R-words can describe my child

    remarkable, rambunctious, radical, radiant, rare, rebellious..

    But retarded is NOT one of them

  37. by Traci

    On July 7, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I don’t have a special needs child, however, I always tell my children not to stare, it isn’t polite. I thought not looking was the right thing. Next time, I will tell my child simply don’t ask me what you want to know, becuase I don’t know, why don’t you go ask them. To all the moms and children out there that we may have offended by not asking, we are truly sorry.

  38. by Debby

    On July 8, 2011 at 9:50 am

    My first born son was born with a rare form of bone dysplasia that resulted in extreme short stature. (dwarfism) this was in the late 70′s. Everywhere we went, people pointed, laughed and made snide comments.

    There would be so many shirts I could of used.

    *He’s NOT blind or Deaf, he’s just SHORT. Get over it”

    * He can hear you!”

    *If you have a question, just ask me, don’t treat my child as if he is a monster”

    In many cultures (I won’t name them) dwarfs were bad luck or karma. We had a ice cream guy who refused to sell to him when he was a little boy.

    My son, had to endure so much while on this earth. He overcame in spite of it all. Adults were always more cruel than his peers. He graduated college with a political science major and then passed away unexpectedly at the age of 25 of a undetected heart defect.

    When he was young he used to call people who were cruel and mean, “Iggies”.

  39. by Patti

    On July 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    One of my friends came up with “Autism before coffee is no bueno!”. Another friend came up with “I’m not a bad parent, Autism just sucks sometimes.” I love my friends.

    If I came up with a shirt it would most likely have a lot of profanities on it. :D

  40. by Diane

    On July 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    “I’m not bad, I’m just wired differently” – son with PDD-NOS, dyspraxia & SPD.

  41. by michele

    On July 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    My son has 2 shirts we had made “spina bifida can’t beat me!” and “spina bifida isn’t a disability….ignorance is.” I’m all for educating and would much rather people ask than stare and make rude comments or wrong assumptions.

  42. by Viv Hallberg

    On July 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    My child is Special!!! Isn’t yours?

  43. by Ellen Seidman

    On July 11, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I’m thinking we all need to go out and get us some t-shirts!

  44. by Kate

    On July 31, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    “STOP Staring at Us!
    START PRAYING for us”

    “Instead of Staring at us, PRAY for us!”

    “What is more rude?-
    You Staring @ Us
    Me Telling you to stop?

    “PRAYERS with your STARES would make it FAIR”

  45. by Alexis

    On August 17, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Like the other mommy who does not have children with special needs, I’m sorry that so many are rude and inappropriate. I agree that ignorance is a terrible disability-worse because it can be correcrted, but many would rather be self-righteous. I have a full-blown 2 year old that frequently has meltdowns in public (like when we leave the park or I make him wait until after I pay before he can eat his treat). It’s humiliating enough without the comments from people who can “handle him better.” So a lot of your slogans still hit home with me. I personally prefer “If you think my child’s behavior is bad, keep talking and you’ll get to see mine.” We all do the best we can with what we’re given, and I’m very proud to be the mommy of my sometimes badly-behaved children. You are truly special parents.

  46. by Beth

    On October 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Our school’s students went to the Special Olympics with t-shirts that said: “We’re not special, we’re EXTRAORDINARY!” Everyone loved them!

  47. by Kim

    On December 4, 2011 at 11:35 am

    We recently bought a shirt from Honestbaby that says “I’ll walk when I’m good and ready” – perfect for my non walking 2 year old and available in larger sizes as well.