When children with special needs and typically developing
children become friends at school, church or through after-school
activities, both children benefit. When a friendship begins
blooming, parents should encourage the relationship as they would
any other childhood friendship.
A great way to do that is to have them get together for a play
date outside of school or their shared activities.
1. Practice makes perfect
Barbara Boroson, a licensed master's-level social worker and
mother of a child on the autism spectrum, suggests parents of both
typically developing kids and children with special needs should
role-play with their children before the play date. "Take a few
minutes to guide her toward considering her friend's interests,
hobbies, likes and dislikes," she says.
2. Ask the parents
Talk to the parent of the child with special needs before the
play date to see if they have any suggestions that may help it go
smoothly, such as activities the child enjoys. Be sure to ask about
any allergies or medical conditions you should be aware of.
3. Set sharing guidelines
Know that sharing can often be an issue. "Some children with
special needs keep very careful track of certain toys and
accessories and cannot tolerate anyone touching, moving or changing
them," says Boroson. "Before another child comes to play, it can be
helpful to suggest that your child put away any toys he feels he
cannot share and know that any toys he leaves out must be shared
4. Find common interests
Encourage the kids to bond over common interests, such as
sports, books, music and games. If an activity is going to be
challenging for the child with special needs, steer the children to
an activity that both kids can participate in. Many parents are
surprised at how naturally they bond and select activities that
both are interested in.
5. There's always next time
If the play date does not go as planned, remember play dates
with two typically developing children do not always go smoothly.
Brainstorm with the other parent ideas to help the next play date
go better, such as meeting at a quieter location or meeting at a
different time of day.
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