Every parent wants their child to feel safe, accepted, included, and happy — not just in their learning environment, but in their social life as well. To achieve this for my children, we spent a good portion of the toddler years exploring ways in which we could keep them involved and socializing with other kids their age. Our goal was to help them learn how to make new friends and if need be, how to deal with adversity in relationships early on.
In addition to teaching them how to socialize, we found it important to expose them to all the different people with whom they could socialize. We wanted our children to be embracing of cultural diversity, different socio-economic backgrounds, and people of different abilities. We attended a variety of social functions and explored different parks throughout the city to give our children a well-rounded view of the world and all of the people in it. Of all the steps we’ve taken to create a realistic world view for our children, one of the most valuable experiences we’ve had is having a neighbor whose child has special needs. Our children understand his needs might be different from theirs, but they don’t exclude him from play as a result. Instead, they’ve learned to be more patient and understanding. They’ve learned that sometimes, he might do something that they don’t fully understand, but they accept and love him for who he is anyway. Every chance the weather permits them to go outside, they are sure to ring his doorbell and invite him out to play.
Although we love and embrace our neighbor’s different abilities, it’s important to point out that this isn’t always the case. Children with special needs are often misunderstood and sometimes excluded from play or social events as a result. One reason people exclude them is because of fear of the unknown. They may not have ever had any experience with a child who has special needs and aren’t sure how to react, or they underestimate their abilities.
Whatever the situation may be, the answer might be to become more familiar with special needs children. Every parent wants their child to feel safe, accepted, included, and happy — regardless of their child’s abilities. One way that we can eliminate the fear and help all children feel included is through inclusivity. If we want to know more about children with special needs, we need to be inclusive. This might mean being a little more patient, understanding, and accepting.
This means asking questions, being kind, and showing compassion.
This means getting to know them and love them for everything they have to offer.
As parents, we also have the responsibility of teaching our children inclusivity. Special needs children might have different abilities than other children, but they have their own valuable talents and strengths that can easily be seen if you spend some time with them.
Everyone has something to offer, and your children will better learn this if they are given the opportunity to.
It’s as simple as teaching our children to embrace each other, regardless of abilities, and to have compassion and sensitivity towards others — and doing this is so powerful. It creates a safe and happy place for everyone to enjoy.
If you’ve never been around children with special needs, there is a lot to learn and it may not always be easy, but they are all worth it. It’s true that not all situations might be the best fit for a child with special needs, but making the effort to include them in some shape or form can make a huge difference in both of your lives.
By Pamela V. Miller