As a parent, you already know that caring for a child with special needs requires extra effort. In some cases, those extra efforts can be exhausting and overwhelming.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six, or 17% of children aged between 3 and 17, have one or more types of developmental disability.
While it’s essential to take care of the physical needs of your child first and foremost, don’t forget that they also have social needs as well. As your child grows up, they will want friendships and relationships just like any other kid does.
So how do you go about making sure that happens? Let’s talk about some tips for helping your special needs child develop social skills and relationships with others their age:
Spend Time With Them Every Day
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, parents spend an average of two hours a day caring for and helping their children.
Spending time with your child is important. How much time you spend together depends on the needs of your child and the activities you share. The most important factor is to make sure they feel comfortable and happy.
Suppose you are just beginning to develop a relationship with your child. In that case, it can be helpful to sit down with them alone and talk about what they like to do, what they enjoy doing together, or what they want from their relationship with others.
This way, if there are things that make them uncomfortable that may come up during playtime or other activities, then those issues can be addressed before anything gets too far out of hand.
Make Their Needs Known to Others Around You
As a parent or guardian of an Individual with a Developmental Disability (IDD), it is your responsibility to make sure that the needs of your child are known to others around you.
Most people who have not dealt with the developmental disorder do not understand what does IDD mean in mental health? However, if people are aware of what needs to be done for your child, they will be willing and able to help out more often.
You may feel uncomfortable asking others for help, but remember that they might not know how best to assist you or your family member unless they are told exactly what is needed. You should also consider ensuring that their social skills are being developed by having them interact with other children or adults in appropriate ways.
This way, they won’t feel left out during times when they cannot communicate as well as other children their age due to developmental delays or disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Use the Right Language
When communicating with a developmentally disabled child, it is important to choose your words carefully. Avoid using negative language and labeling the person as “disabled.” Instead, use positive language that describes someone’s abilities or strengths, e.g., she can sing beautifully. You should also avoid using general terms like “retarded” or “crazy.”
When talking to or about the child, use his name whenever possible and keep things simple by using nonverbal cues such as eye contact and touch when appropriate. This will help you communicate effectively with him.
Create Opportunities for Them to Make Friends
The Chronicle reported recently about a free soccer program for kids with special needs. In Citrus County, 20 kids with developmental disabilities, between the ages of 3 to 18, made their team which is a part of the national US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program.
To create opportunities for your child to make friends, you should:
- Schedule their day so they can interact with other children. For example, if your child’s school has recess during the day, you can sign them up for a sports team or volunteer as a coach. This allows them to meet other children who enjoy playing sports and spending time outside. It also allows them to learn about teamwork and leadership skills. The same is true if there are clubs or groups in the community that your child could join. For example, scouts or church organizations host events where families gather together.
- Schedule their day so they can interact with adults as well as children at different times of day on different days of the week like Sunday night dinners with extended family members.
Your Child’s Disability Is Not the Only Thing People Will Notice
Don’t assume that your child’s disability is the only thing people will notice about them. Most of us have had experiences with disabled people, and most of us are familiar with the fact that even though they may look “different,” they still want to be treated like humans.
There’s no reason not to give other kids a chance to interact with your child in a social setting if they’re interested to learn more about what makes their kid special and wonderful, too.
Tell Stories About Things Your Child Has Done
It’s important to tell stories about your child. When you share stories, you are helping your child feel connected to the world around them. You can talk about what they have done in the past and how proud you are of them. You can also talk about things they like to do, or things that make them happy or sad.
Ask About Their Friends
Another way to help your child feel comfortable and accepted at school is by learning more about his or her friends. You can do this by asking questions like “What’s your friend’s name?” and “How did you meet your friend?”
Your child may be reluctant to share information about their social life, so be sensitive to their needs and feelings. For example, if they don’t want to talk about something personal, try another question that might lead to what you’re interested in hearing about. Like a favorite activity with friends or how many times they see each other outside of school hours.
If a friendship seems unhealthy or unbalanced, talk with the parents of both children involved and offer suggestions for ways that everyone can benefit from the relationship.
The most important thing you can do for your child’s social development is to be there for them and help them succeed. Children with developmental disabilities have the same desires as any other child to learn, grow and make friends, but they often miss out on those opportunities because of their disability. Your role is crucial in providing your child with the support they need to build their skills and confidence.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need extra assistance with your child’s social development, plenty of resources are available. Don’t forget that the most important thing is for your child to feel loved and supported by those around them.
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