When special needs kids want to get involved with others their own age, it can be one of the hardest things to do. So many children, not just special needs, can feel isolated or alienated from their peers. Special needs children, especially, may have difficulty relating to their age group.
Fortunately, there are some ways to bring these two groups together, and history has shown that most students in regular courses are quite accepting of special needs students once the initial barriers are broken down. Here are some good options:
Participate in After School Activities
One of the best ways to break the ice is to start with an afterschool activity of some kind, like a play date, volunteering for a club, community service, or going to see a sports game. This takes children outside of the rigid school environment and gives them an opportunity to relax in a more casual setting.
The ideal activity is one where a special needs child can take charge and demonstrate some kind of expertise. That could include explaining the rules of a game, showing how to properly care for animals, or otherwise taking charge and giving directions. This is a critical step in overcoming a common belief children have: that special needs students are stupid. Is there an activity your child especially enjoys that they could share with their peers? Start with that!
Learning disabilities–which are one of the most common special needs–are not the same thing as having a low IQ. Though, this is a mistake many children make. The real problem is usually one of expression, and allowing children with special needs to demonstrate their expertise can shatter the false beliefs. Children with special needs will always be seen as ‘different’, but different doesn’t have to be bad.
Join a Support Group
Children with special needs can also do well in support groups, especially if they have an opportunity to do some of the supporting. Meeting other children who face similar challenges, especially if those children have overcome challenges, can help your child feel optimistic. Having a special need is not an automatic failure in life. Many children can and do grow up to be successful, but only if they’re kept motivated and believe that they can succeed.
In other words, don’t focus on what the child can’t do, focus on what they can. When children find support from their peers
Get the School Involved
The law requires schools to put children with special needs in the least restrictive environment. In the practical sense, this means that they should be learning with their peers unless they genuinely need to be kept separated from others. However, just being in the classroom doesn’t necessarily mean inclusion will happen. Teachers should also be asked to support these efforts and find a way of getting children with special needs into groups.
If your child’s school is failing to provide the least restrictive environment, the California Special Needs Law Group may be able to help you fix this problem.
Remember: Different children have different needs! The suggestions here are good for most children with special needs, but there is no advice that’s appropriate for every child. Don’t hesitate to adjust any of the plans here to suit your child’s individual needs.