Friendships can be difficult to foster for anyone, but as a parent of a child with special needs, it can be even more difficult. It’s natural that we want healthy friendships and relationships for our children.
I remember when my son was in seventh grade, we became huge advocates for him to foster relationships with classmates outside of the school building. Although our son is non-verbal and wheelchair bound, he is a social person so we invited students over for a “playdate” focused on “parallel play.” The other parents were not receptive to the idea, even with the teachers being supportive.
It certainly opened my eyes to the chasm between parents within the special needs community.
We can sometimes stunt the growth of our exceptional child because we want to keep them to ourselves. Let’s change that and curate opportunities for these kiddos foster friendships through the abilities they do have.
Remind your child of the abilities they do have and explain to them that there are other children that have those abilities, too. Invite classmates to a fun activity or movie that is sure to bring out the ability to laugh.
Although there are parents that may not be open to the idea, there are some that are. Don’t give up! Enroll your child in an extracurricular or two.
Just as adults roleplay for job interviews, help your child become confident in their approach. Honing in on those social skills are important to their growth and development.
Let’s get social.
Encourage your child to attend events in the community and at school. Showing up to sporting events and community programs are opportunities to socialize and meet new people. It’s also an opportunity for schoolmates to see them outside the school building.
Spark the conversation with the school.
When you share the importance of socialization with the school, they can create opportunities for your child to be placed in more social settings.
We all have friends and neighbors. Invite them over for a picnic and introduce the kids by sharing the commonalities they do have. This is sure to change the perspective of children and parents alike.
We have surpassed the days of pen pals but we can create the same concept with video conferencing technology. Introduce the idea of video chatting with classmates after of school hours. This will give them an opportunity to share fun laughs and jokes.
As parents, we are the inner voice of our kid, so let it be confident and reassuring. Through abilities and disabilities, we want our children to be confident and feel loved. Friendships do this. Having a friend or to laugh and play with is healthy for our children who are already faced with challenges out of their control.
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