4 Ways to help your child bond with friends who have special needs

4 Ways to help your child bond with friends who have special needs

18 September 2019 Admin General Media

A child’s friendship with a special needs child may not seem like any other relationship. Not many children look at another child with challenges and think about how they can get to know them better. This requires a high level of social maturity that many kids may need to acquire. Being inclusive doesn’t always come naturally to kids, who often need guidance to get a friendship off the ground.

Here are some ways you can help your child bond with other kids who have special needs:

  1. Talk about Differences

Children with special needs often invite constant stares of others. People tend to look at someone who appears different than others. Even if your instinct may be to tell your child to avert his gaze to avoid hurting the other kids’ feelings, this kind of response closes the door to interaction and sets an unfortunate precedent. The next time your child can’t take their eyes off someone, try to quietly acknowledge the surprising behavior or appearance right away, and find a way to connect it to your kid. For example, if a child with autism is jumping up and down from excitement or anxiety, you can say, “It’s like how you twirl your hair when you’re feeling nervous.” When you demystify differences, you open up their minds to understanding and empathy.


  1. Approach the Parents

If you’re not sure of the best way for you or your child to get to know someone with special needs, ask his mom or dad for some tips. They might help you kick-start a dialogue between the kids. Though this conversation might seem uncomfortable, think about the bigger picture. You can also start out by approaching your child’s teacher first to find out if the other parents are interested in chatting.


  1. Emphasize their similarities

Before a playdate with a differently abled child, talk to your own child about the things they both love to do. People often develop friendships because of common experiences and interests. You can get your child excited by describing his new friend’s wonderful collection of toys or books. Remember that these shared interests need not be skill-based. They could simple things such as favorite movies or doing simple things like going to the beach.


  1. Remind your child that he’s a friend and not a hero

If your child is befriending someone with special needs, it should not be out of pity or as an act of doing charity work. To help your child forge authentic friendships with a diverse set of peers, praise his sincerity and ability to value individuality. Help your child become aware of his ability to appreciate the human being within the special needs body. Talk about what makes other kids potential buddies – their favorite song or sense of humor- and then step back and let the kids get to know one another.

Special needs kids need normal friendships that come out of love, respect and mutual understanding. When you teach your children little things about getting to know a special needs child and being empathetic, you help them be the best friends these children need.