Shuchita Dua Dullu
Chances are that at some point your child will meet a child who has special needs or have a classmate who is differently-abled. Though children are less likely to be apprehensive about making friends – they may still need our guidance on how they can befriend other children who may have special needs. Here are a few tips on how to teach your child to be more compassionate & understanding while interacting with children who have special needs.
Don’t treat them differently because of their condition
Their condition may be new to you, but to the child, it’s a fact of life and thus should be treated as such. There’s no need to get nervous, fussy or antsy about their condition.
Children with special needs are often left out of birthday parties or other activities outside of school. Encourage your child to invite them. Also, make sure that the activities planned for the event are such that everyone can participate and not feel left out.
It is possible that children with special needs may think and play differently, so ensure that you have a conversation about this with your child so that they know what to expect. Sometimes, they do things more slowly than others in a group. Teach your child how to engage in parallel play, which involves playing side-by-side without much interaction.
Avoid making assumptions
Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re unsure. If you’re well-meaning and ask politely they are likely to be willing to talk or share their experiences. Additionally, it’s not wise to assume that someone with a developmental condition is intellectually disabled. Treat them in an age-appropriate way.
Talk to them the same way you’d talk to another child their age
It is best not to patronise or talk to them in a manner that may suggest they are not viewed as equal or capable. Use a tone and body language that conveys respect for them.
Acceptance is the key to building a close bond with a child who has special needs. Encourage your child to get to know and understand them as an individual first, and be more open to learning about their condition and the challenges they face without making judgements.
See the person and the disability
They want to be seen as a person first, with their own individual characteristics and capabilities acknowledged – while also having their limits and challenges respected. Encourage your child to keep this mind and accommodate their needs, recognise their strengths, and listen to them.
More parents and children should be encouraged to acknowledge the potential of a kid with special needs. The idea is not just to treat them with compassion when circumstances bring us closer together, but to try and form a bond with them and recognize them as someone with the potential to become a real friend!
(The author is senior child psychologist, Mom’s Belief)
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