How do you include a child who is difficult to include?
This is not an easy answer. The specifics vary from child-to-child. There is something common to everyone however, friendship. Everyone needs friendship.
When we teach our neurotypical children to play with friends or siblings it is often a mutually beneficial relationship. They get the instant gratification that comes from playing pretend alongside each other when they are little. They also learn how to share toys and take turns. And being competitive and active as they get older. They learn how to share their thoughts and feelings with one another as relationships mature.
Generally, it’s fun for children to interact with one another. Many children with disabilities lack these sorts of experiences with their peers, especially if they are nonverbal or have behavior challenges. It’s up to us as parents, teachers, and caregivers to bridge this gap.
Remember we were once also intimidated by disability. We simply needed to step toward someone with a disability, expecting nothing in return. That’s what we need to teach our kids too.
What you gain from befriending someone with special needs is not always so instant or tangible. This is hard to teach kids.
We teach by modeling.
Remember one simple thing — friendship.
Nathan will always be doing life in his own way, at his own pace. Although it will be clumsy and slower, I hope it is never in complete isolation from his peers. I hope that they have opportunities to get to know him and I hope that he has a chance to show them his love and affection because he will if given the opportunity.
My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!
Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!