Guest Post By Christine Bronstein
(Author of the Inclusion-Friendly Stewie BOOM! Series of Children’s Books)
Before welcoming a special-needs child, it is very important to have conversations about differences with your children in a safe and open way. Talk about things that may be different about their new friend and also discuss what similarities they might have. Many of us were taught that differences-physical, mental, or emotional- were things we shouldn’t see and shouldn’t discuss, but those messages are outdated and not good for anyone. We need to be talking to our kids about diversity and inclusion early and often.
During these conversations, it is crucial to also talk about the importance of being a good friend. Open up a dialogue and ask them: How does it feel to be misunderstood? How does it feel to be left out? How does it feel to be judged about something you cannot change? How does it feel to be a friend to someone in need? Talking to your kids early about what it means to be a kind and accepting person is key to creating healthy social bonds.
Scheduling the Play-Date
Parents who want their children to have inclusive social circles can reach out to parents of special needs children in their neighborhood or schools by simply finding out who the special needs children are, getting the parents’ contact information, and reaching out. Parents of special needs children are more likely to feel isolated, tired and stressed, so being mindful of this in your communication is key.
With that in mind, creating a relationship with the parents of special needs children is as easy as simply asking questions. For example, what does their special needs child love to do? What shows or movies do they like? Do they like art, animals or water play?
Would it be better to have a first play-date at your house or their house? Simply reaching out and stating that you would love to have your children play together and you want it to be successful, just might be exactly what that parent needs to hear. We all have a lot we can learn from special needs parents- who often have incredible reserves of strength and perspective. By creating these relationships parents also model openness and show children that it feels good to be a part of a broadening community.
During the Play-Date
Don’t worry about what the kids ‘should be doing' and focus on how they should be towards each other. For example, in my picture book, Stewie BOOM! And Princess Penelope, the kids end up playing video games and that worked for everyone. Also, with summer coming up, if it's a hot summer day and your kids are playing in the sprinklers, often times (not always) kids with ASD love water play too. Keep it short to start out. It is better to have 20 minutes of successful fun than 2 hours of stress.
Make yourself available to help the children communicate and facilitate a relaxed environment. Making sure you keep the pace to that of the special needs child. Do not to take things personally if the ASD kiddo doesn't respond the way you hoped. And remember to ask about any allergies or any things that could trigger discomfort for the special needs child.
For Parents of Special Needs Children
Do not put any extra stress on yourself, but when opportunities arise, build relationships. Get to know your neighbors and other parents, even if it's just saying hi when you take out the garbage. Let folks know about your amazing child and the things that would be great to know about him/her. People may not always understand, but the more information they know, the more open they can be.
If you are up for it, invite kids over. It may feel daunting, but the more relaxed you are and the less you worry about the outcome, the easier it will be for everyone. Some play-dates will go smoothly and some won’t, and that is okay. Broadening your and your child’s social circle is healthy. If you are sending your child on a play-date, just make sure to share your child’s triggers, allergies, and what would make for a better play-date.
(And of course, you can forward this article on before the play-date and ask the parents to have the conversations listed above with their children in advance of the play-date.)
ABOUT CHRISTINE BRONSTEIN:
Christine Bronstein is an entrepreneur, a mom, an author, a philanthropist and a wife. She is the founder of Nothing But The Truth Publishing and the author of the Stewie BOOM! series of children’s books. Through this series, Bronstein helps young people face challenges and overcome adversity in a positive and kid-friendly way. Her message has helped thousands of children and their families deal with disabilities. Her latest picture book (released April 2018) Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Play-dates, shows readers how children and families can embrace differences and it also gives parents the tools to help facilitate successful social interactions between children with ASD and their typical playmates.
ABOUT STEWIE BOOM! (A Series of Inclusion-Friendly Picture Books)
The Stewie BOOM! series from Nothing But The Truth Publishing makes parenting fun. Through these engaging picture books — with parent tips at the end of each book — author Christine Bronstein empowers families to tackle transitions and modern issues with fun and ease. The latest book in the series, Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope, was just released April 2018 and focuses specifically on including children with ASD.
For More information Visit: http://stewieboom.com/