Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Parenting Pointers: Welcoming Kids with Autism and Other Special Needs

Nothing But The Truth Publishing specializes in works by diverse female authors as well as children's books. They are excited to be launching their latest title, Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Playdates, which focuses on neurodiversity and children with autism spectrum disorder.

I had a chance to interview the author to get excellent information on meeting the social needs of kids with autism. You can also read the book, which can provide a non-threatening way to discuss kids with special needs with your own children.

How can parents encourage their kids to welcome special needs children?
Open up the conversation to talk about differences with your children in a safe and open way.  Many of us were taught that differences-physical, mental, or emotional- were things we shouldn’t see and shouldn’t discuss, but those messages are not good for anyone.  We are all different and we can find ways to embrace and celebrate our differences, but only if we are really able to openly discuss them. Parents can start by asking their children questions about how they feel when someone judges them? How do they feel when they are lonely or misunderstood? How does it feel to be left out? And how it feels to be a friend to someone in need? What it means to be kind?
Parents can also help their children find points of connection with special needs children in their neighborhood or schools by reaching out to the parents and also asking questions.  Parents of special needs children are more likely to feel even more isolated, tired and stressed than parents of typical kids. Being understanding of those facts is important. And creating a relationship is as easy as simply starting a dialogue. For example, what does their special needs child love to do? What shows or movies do they like? Do they like art, animals or water play?  How can you create a fun activity that both children might enjoy?
We all have a lot we can learn from special needs children and special needs parents- who often have incredible reserves of strength and perspective.  By creating these relationships, parents model openness and acceptance and show children that it feels good to be a part of a broad community.

What can parents of special needs children do to help facilitate social interactions?
When opportunities arise, build relationships. Get to know your neighbors and other parents, even if it's just saying hi when you take out the garbage.  Let folks know about your amazing child and the things that would be great to know about him/her. People may not always understand, but the more information they know, the more open they can be.
How can parents of children without ASD help facilitate a successful playdate?
Don’t worry about what the kids 'should be doing' and focus on how they should be towards each other. For example, in our book the kids end up playing video games, and that worked for everyone. Also, with summer coming up, if it's a hot summer day and your kids are playing in the sprinklers, often times (not always) kids with ASD love water play too. It is easy to ask the parents of special needs kids, "We'd love to have you over and we want it to be successful, what can we do?" Keep it short if need be. It is better to have 20 minutes of successful fun than 2 hours of stress.
Make yourself available to help the children communicate and facilitate a relaxed environment. Making sure you keep the pace to that of the special needs child. Do not to take things personally if the ASD kiddo doesn't respond the way you hoped. And remember to ask about any allergies or any things that could trigger discomfort for the special needs child.

Be open.  Be aware. Be compassionate and understanding. Don't judge. Don't have too many expectations of what should happen and just be open to what unfolds.

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