“Dear Illegal Parker…”

It is a magical piece of paper that allows us the privilege to park in disabled parking spaces, not only in Switzerland but also in member states of the International Transport Forum (ITF).

This means that our card is also recognized throughout the EU and EEA, along with USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Korea.

The card isn’t free. We paid a fee for it.

We had to apply for it and our doctor had to write an attestation letter that we would need it for the long-term, which in our country means at least five years.

The parking spots are almost always near the entrance to our destination, but that doesn’t give you the right to park in this spot on a rainy day because you forgot your umbrella.

And yes, I see you are wearing designer stilettos and the weather is not favourable but that still isn’t an excuse.

The parking spaces are wide and spacious—perfect for your big, fat SUV, but that doesn’t give you the right to park in the space because the other spots are too narrow.

Sometimes the spots are double-wide, but that does not mean that you can tag along without a special parking permit and take that extra ‘wasted’ space next to my van with your compact car.

The spaces are wide for a reason, often so that a ramp can be used or to ease the transfer from wheelchair to the car.

I’m sorry that I had to have your license plate number called out in the shopping centre and it embarrassed you, but I couldn’t get my daughter into the car, since you tried to share our spot with us.

The spots are often sitting empty, ready and waiting for a privileged permit holder, yes this is a luxury, but a necessary one.

The privilege to park in a disabled space often comes with a lifetime of health struggles, challenges, and inconveniences.

Getting out of the car is sometimes a thirty-minute ordeal for a person with disability.

Please don’t take the parking spot ‘while you just run in for a minute’.

I know that you didn’t take the parking spot maliciously, you do it sometimes without thinking.

Perhaps in your stress because you are late, you fail to even notice the huge wheelchair insignia painted on the asphalt and the big ‘disabled parking only’ sign at the front of the parking slot.

I know you didn’t take the parking spot so that I am personally inconvenienced.

You were too busy talking on your mobile phone to think that far ahead, but by taking the spot, you have forced me to park in a remote lot with my wheelchair-bound child.

The temperature is in the negative digits today, and all I can think about is that I need to get my daughter from the parking lot into the building as fast as I can before she starts having breathing problems.

But first I need to fit into a narrow parking spot, that isn’t wide enough for an easy transfer from the car seat to wheelchair.

I’m not sorry that I left you a note on your windshield reminding you that you are illegally parked in a spot that is exclusively for holders of a disabled parking permit.

I hope this note makes you think twice before you park in a such a spot again.

Thanks for your attention.


A special needs mom on a mission.

Learning to Juggle, and Not Always Keeping All the Balls in the Air!

Since I left uni I’ve always worked, I’m lucky enough to have a job that I love doing and I always assumed I’d return to work after Sam arrived.

We needed the income from both our jobs to keep a roof over our heads and to pay the bills; so when Sams additional issues were identified we had to take stock and look at things a little differently.

To us, Sam is a very typical little boy – it’s just that in addition to the usual run of colds, tummy upsets and Dr’s visits that every parents has with their child, we also have appointments with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, neurologists, epileptologists, dieticians, orthopaedic specialists, neurodevelopmental therapists, othoptics, ophthalmology and orthotics.

And that’s just for the routine stuff.

Naturally, all these appointments makes life feel like a mad juggling act most of the time, and one in which, frequently, I may drop a clanger.

For the most part, my employer has been very supportive but there comes a point when life needs re-evaluating.

In 2014, I reduced my hours to part time and absolutely LOVED it!

For the first time since Sam was born I actually had time to do mundane things like housework, I loved doing the school run because it was what any other Mum did.

The Great Laundry Mountain of North Staffordshire was finally conquered.

And I was able to spend precious time with my little boy.

When Sam started at school full time I made my employer aware that I intended to return to full time hours, as per my contract.

When I’d gone part time it was written in that I would automatically return to my original full time contract as of 1st September 2014.

However, I was called into a formal meeting and it was put very plainly – I needed to prove to them that Sams issues would not impact on my ability to do my job.

Because he has special needs I had to run the gauntlet of proving that I could handle working full time with a medically interesting child – it was all I could do not to punch someone!

I’d managed this perfectly well for over 2 years even when Sam was an inpatient on the childrens ward – his Dad and I took turns to stay with him overnight so we could each get a bit of sleep.

But despite all this, it was up to me to prove to them that I could do it.

I’ll be honest, it was a slap in the face – after almost a decade of service in the same role, I felt like I was being pushed out as I had suddenly become ‘unreliable’.

After two grueling and quite frankly insulting meetings it was agreed that I would indeed return to full time hours – but I still had to prove myself.

More than once I was asked by a colleague if I shouldn’t be concentrating on my son, instead of working full time.

Now I’m a SN mum, life is very different to what I expected but in ways I never imagined would change.

Under my new line manager I have a clear plan of how to develop my job role AND fit work around Sams appointments etc.

Things are getting better.

Work allows me to be ME, not just Sams Mum (admit it folks, you know *exactly* what I’m talking about); I have interactions with adults who aren’t assessing how flexible my sons joints are, or how wonky his brain is.

And it’s a life-line.

There is a lot of legislation aimed at making life easier for working parents, especially those who are carers… in my experience, getting back to work or arranging flexible working is not only do-able but essential, and the majority of the issues employers raise are actually done out of concern for us and our well-being.

Sure, employers need to protect their assets and ensure that their employees are capable of doing the job, but its not in their interests for us to work ourselves into an early grave either.

Sometimes, juggling life with work is a battle, but if its what’s best for you then go for it x

Unpacking Special Needs Feelings

I came to an unmarked box and peeked inside. It should have been relatively uneventful… heaps of books.

Books that I didn’t realize I even owned. I rummaged feverishly as if I might find a good late night read until I stumbled upon the book

The book that propelled me back in time to days when my child was fighting for his life.

How dare it? How could it? I was over these feelings, wasn’t I? But I wasn’t. All I had done is pack those feelings away.

It was titled Learning to When Courage Lies in Letting Go, by Deborah L. Davis.

As I sat in a hospital rocking chair with tears streaming down my face a hospital social worker placed it in my hands.  I found her timing cruel and insensitive which only intensified the stabbing in my heart and the constant pounding my head felt as a result of the pressure from all my tears.

I was fighting for his life. I wasn’t about to let go. The book supports ethical and humane decision making.

The social worker sat across from me, as my hands braced to hold my face up.

Clips of what she said still haunt me “You’re young enough to start over.”  “He’ll feel no pain if you let him go and withdraw food.”  “He won’t remember.”

I felt tremendous sickness overcome my body as if I had been infected with poison. But it was simply that I was rejecting with every fiber of my being any idea of giving up hope.

I’m sure the book has a purpose (maybe?) and likewise, I’m sure that social worker was coached into just “doing her job” even if it wasn’t the appropriate action for a grieving and distraught new mother.

I should have burned that book.

Really, I probably still should. But I think I held onto it because it was a piece of our story – my son’s story.

But even if that book didn’t exist and I had tossed it years ago, it would have just been something else to stir up memories and feelings that we think as special needs parents we’ve conquered and moved past.

It could be a song, a familiar scent even associated with those early hospital days – an outfit you saved in a box.

Lots of things can open up that boxed place in your heart that you push all those feelings to the bottom just so you can move forward. You might feel it is a sign that you just haven’t healed.

But it’s not about ever healing. It’s simply a coping mechanism that we all do to some degree.

Unpacking special needs feelings from time to time may even in some odd way be beneficial.

It gives us an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, and appreciate all that has gotten us to where we are today.

It serves as gentle reminders of the fighters we all are.

I have so much power now over that book that I held in my hands than I did when it was first placed in them.

I was able to feel it as my personal victory over that book.

It’s okay to unpack those feelings, even if that means it temporarily catches you off guard and you have a mad, messy good cry.

It helps you refocus and move forward stronger than you were before.


Help! My Special Needs Child has to Get Glasses

Corrective lenses—I wear them, and you may also at some point in your life.

So why are glasses such a big deal when it comes to a child with special needs?

Factors such as the myriad unique needs of our children come together with the lack of variety in frame options, and inexperience on the side of the opticians in frame retail stores.

Mia started wearing glasses at eight months of age.

She’s on her sixth pair of glasses.

So I haven’t reached expert status yet, but I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, which hopefully I can help you avoid. Here are some tips for hunting the perfect pair of glasses, which in our case, are usually pink or purple in colour and super cute.

If this is your child’s very first pair of glasses, steer clear of discount shops

The first thing I noticed when we marched into the discount optic shop was that the opticians, while extremely knowledgeable when it came to finding the perfect frame for me, the mom, when it came to my daughter, they had no clue.

Glasses for an eight month old, who can’t sit up.

Most of the glasses on offer were too rigid and did not stay on her head if she was reclined in her stroller or rolling on the floor.

For the premiere pair of glasses, I found that going to store with a reputation for working with small children was far superior.

A speciality store will usually carry a variety of flexible frames that are suitable for a baby, toddler, or a child with special needs.

They will also have more experience in working with you to fit your child’s unique needs. It is more expensive, but in this case, you really do get what you pay for.

Shop around (as much as possible in your situation)

I write this and know you are rolling your eyes.

You’ll be lucky to survive one trip to a single store to try on glasses—no chance you’re going to make it to another store.

In our case, we did the shopping in stages.

Taking pictures of the winners and noting brands and styles along the way.

Nowadays, we have our favourite shop and don’t need to make the rounds anymore.

Call ahead

Most shops don’t require an appointment, but calling ahead can still make the situation more comfortable.

Calling ahead has many advantages.

If you have a child that goes into sensory overload, find out when is a quiet time to visit the store can make a stressful trip a bit less stimulating.

Ask if they have private cubicles or consultation rooms where you can try on the frames in peace and quiet.

I’ve even called ahead and asked for a pre-selection of frames to my specifications be set aside.

Ask for recommendations

While in the waiting room at the eye clinic, you see a child with extremely good looking frames.

Don’t be shy.

Ask the child’s parents where they got the glasses and note down the brand of the frames.

While you are at it, ask them for any other good tips.

Be prepared for an insensitive comment or two, and don’t take it personally

Special needs children sometimes have unique facial or cranial features that make finding a comfortable frame even harder.

Often we don’t even see these differences as parents.

Uneven ears, ear malformation, flat mid-face, short temples, misalignment of features, and narrow or wide-set eyes can make buying glasses a nightmare.

Enter the optician who often is just not experienced enough in dealing with unique customers.

I once left a frame shop almost in tears, as the inexperienced consultant tried to explain to me that none of their glasses would work for Mia because of her extremely adorable nose, which was apparently too small proportionally to her face.

Then she elaborated that Mia’s wide and flat nasal bridge, a key feature of her syndrome, was also working against us finding a suitably cute frame in their store.

Then she tried to push a pair of ugly, toady frames in army green that could possibly work.

Fine tuning necessary

Don’t be afraid to go back for adjustments.

If you’re having a particular problem getting the glasses to fit in certain situations, take a picture and see if the problem can be remedied.

Mia once had a pair of frames that fit great when she was upright, but as soon as she was on her back playing on the floor, the long temples pushed the glasses forward, even with the use of a sports band.

The shop owner custom-shortened the length of the temples and designed a customized strap that worked with the modified frame.

Now that you have the glasses—you have to figure out how to persuade your child to actually wear them.

That my friends, is a post for another day.

Special Needs Parenting: Help! How Do I Answer That Next Awkward Question?

The most popular question (and I am sure you can all guess what it is) is ‘What is wrong with your child?’

And whilst I have an answer for that one (‘nothing, he just has cerebral palsy’), there are some questions I just can’t think of an answer for.

There is another question that I get asked a lot and it tends to go like this:

‘Aww, is he asleep?’

‘Ermm, well, I wouldn’t have thought so, his eyes are wide open.’

‘Tired then?’

‘Er, no it’s 9.30am and he actually didn’t sleep too badly for him last night’

‘Yes, he must be tired, he’s yawning.’

‘No, he’s just opening his mouth, it’s just what he does.’

Maybe if Oscar could talk, he would be politely asking you to shut up asking his mummy all these questions!

Now, now mummy! Calm down.

I think the thing that puzzles me most is that I really don’t know where this comes from when people ask me this.

I don’t understand what they are seeing that I am not.

I look at Oscar and he does not look the slightest bit tired but then I know my son.

Other people do not.

I know I should probably explain about his disability and although I am more than happy to do this, I do not feel like I should have to tell every single person I meet.

Sometimes, I feel a bit like, it really isn’t anyone else’s business. 

I think people speak to me so often when I am out and about with Oscar is they sense something is ‘different’ and maybe they are a bit curious (or nosey).

But, if I got into a discussion with everyone who speaks to me about Oscar and told them about his condition I would not get anything done.

A LOT of people seem to like and come and talk to us.

It is also exhausting going over and over it again and sometimes this is not good for my emotional or mental health.

Especially, if I am having a bit of a bad day, which I am glad to say are few and far between.

But, I also know that this is making me a bad special needs parent as I should be educating people as there is still so much stigma around people who have disabilities, regardless of age.

And, this is wrong, very, very wrong.

I still can’t believe it is happening in this day and age.

So, I am asking for some help from all special needs parents and carers please.

What questions are you regularly asked about your child and how do you respond?
Polite responses only please 🙂

Becoming a Full Time Carer for My Daughter with Cerebral Palsy

One of my old mantras used to be to try and live in the present. It sounds very cliché but as humans we seem to be conditioned to constantly want more from life, always saying to ourselves “I can’t wait for Friday”, “I’ll be happy when this shift is over”, “I’ll be happy when the weather gets better”, “I’ll be happy when we have a better car” etc.

Yes, I am like everyone else – I always want more. But my thing now is just wanting to feel normal again.

Becoming a full time carer really can be one of the most isolating experiences of your life.

I am by nature both introvert and extrovert meaning that some days the thought of social interaction makes me shudder and I just want to hide in my bed (preferably with my other half too!) and play video games and never set foot outside.

On the same level, I equally want to be surrounded by people I love and to chat and be silly (lesser so these days).

I used to be very fond of working full time and “contributing”. My goal was to get a better/more interesting role, earn more money for nice things for my family.

Obviously that went out of the window when we were hit with the curve ball known as birth trauma!

At the moment I think what I want from life is that hunger for success that I used to have.

We all thrive on different things; we all have different hobbies and interests.

I feel that I have lost a lot of my identity and given up a lot of my hobbies and my new interest is making sure my daughter is happy. Sadly she is not happy.

At the moment she is incredibly reliant on the i-pad and even then she’s getting bored of that. She doesn’t like to be held, she doesn’t like to be in a seat, she is interested in toys but not for long (and requires me to 100% facilitate the fun), the portage workers deem her a challenge as do most who try to take care of her.

There is little respite and we are on so many waiting lists for various services.

Seeing Amy smile makes all of this worth it, even if the smiles are only fleeting right now.

It makes you feel like a failure of a mother when you can’t make them happy all of the time, you constantly worry if seizures are back, if she is in pain and so many other things on top of “typical kid” stuff such as teething and growth spurts.

Amy’s cerebral palsy is spastic quadriplegic meaning that she is unable to sit, eat, walk, crawl etc.

We work so hard everyday on physio and various other therapies and I can see her frustration when she is unable to do what she wants.

We know that Amy is in need of a fundoplication re-do as her first one failed – this means she is back on anti-reflux meds but still in considerable discomfort a lot of the time.

Another waiting list.

The exhaustion of it has recently taken its toll on me to the point I can barely get out of bed in the morning and my eyebags look like they could store all of my belongings.

Lifting Amy is starting to damage my back and I seem to be in a permanent zombie state.

The reason I talk about this is to let others in my position know that they are not alone.

If you’re anything like me you want desperately for people to understand just how taxing it is. But at the same time you really want people to admire you and see how well you are coping.

You are either pitied or admired in this role, you’re a hero or a victim.

I am not sure how I want to be viewed.

Every night when I go to bed I always without fail, dream that she has learned to sit and play with a toy, or has learned to eat or walk.

Never say never. I am cautiously optimistic but I think at this stage of the journey I am still processing it all and trying to come to terms with the future.

If those things never happen; that’s fine, providing my brain gives me the coping mechanisms I need to handle it and make sure I can make her happy.

I once signed a petition for carers to receive minimum wage instead of less than £2 per hour. I posted it onto twitter and was immediately sent abuse by a stranger claiming that I am draining the economy and that he would rather not be alive than be as disabled as my daughter.

Can you imagine my shock and disgust at this?

Old me would have blocked him and reported him – new angry me couldn’t resist fighting my corner and justifying this whole situation.

This is what I mean by wanting people to understand your situation.

This man has obviously been fortunate enough to never have needed to make some of the very difficult career choices I have had to make, and I hope that if he ever suffers a severe brain injury that someone loves him enough to become his carer.

For me now there is no “it will be better when” or “I’ll be happy when”, it’s a case of taking each day at a time and learning to accept that there are good days and bad days.

I have learned a lot through this journey so far, whilst there are lots of negatives there really are a lot of positives too.

I have met some truly amazing and inspirational people who “get it”.

I have learned who all of my real friends are.

I have learned my capacity to love and learn.

I have also learned that everyone is fighting their own battle – you just don’t know what others have been through in life and it’s so important to always be kind.

I am slowly, thanks to our health system, learning patience and tolerance.

I still work one day a week and this has been a great source of respite for me and helps me enjoy a hot drink!

I love my colleagues and am very fortunate that my work has allowed me to work on such reduced hours in a role that suits me.

I know this hasn’t been my most uplifting post, but it’s important to me to document every emotion, be open and honest, and to show others that they are not alone.

I wish you all a huge amount of the good days.

Don’t Count Me Out:  Cerebral Palsy Awareness

You might make the assumption that someone living with Cerebral Palsy may not be able to accomplish things in life that an able bodied person is capable of due to the nature of their various physical challenges.

But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact many living with Cerebral Palsy are defying the odds and going on to live incredible lives despite their condition.

As we celebrate Cerebral Palsy Month we’re taking a look at those who are have succeeded in making remarkable accomplishments and living life to the fullest.

Susie Bennett, a now well-seasoned author living in the UK, is on her fourth-published book.

Susie was born in Stockton-on-Tees and faced countless doubters during her lifetime that she’d ever have the capability of such big accomplishments let alone the ability to have hopes of ever walking, talking, or be physically functioning in many ways.

Her debut book, Sky’s the Limit, “demonstrates Susan’s steely resolve to overcome all of life’s obstacles, some physical and some emotional and some quite devastating.

The book reflects Susan’s feelings of cherishing what you have and not worrying about what you don’t have, all with a happy demeanor.

One by one the ‘can’t do’s are ticked off as ‘done’.

She followed up her successful biography with three additional books The Lighting Wizard, A Homeless Paradise and World’s Apart. She’s turned all the cant’s and crushing predictions about her life into I can’s and watch me do it.

Zach Anner, a natural born comedian living with Cerebral Palsy gained nationwide attention when he focused his efforts on gaining Oprah Winfrey’s attention in her search for The Next TV Star Competition.

He was hugely successful going on to gain his own show on the OWN Network called Rollin’ With Zach.

He showed the world that there was no place a wheelchair could not go and that it was all about defying limits set before you. What we love most about Zach is his ability to name all the things he is before what he isn’t, always throwing in his condition as a side note, “I also have cerebral palsy, so that’s a thing.”

He shows the world that you can still enjoy life to the fullest – even if from a wheelchair.

Team Hoyt, likely one of the most inspirational duos of all time showing the world just how it’s done when you have someone who believes in you when you have Cerebral Palsy.

A Father and Son duo – a perfect team running Marathons together since 1977.

Dick and Judy Hoyt gave birth to their son Rick, in 1962, and were quickly encouraged to institutionalize their son being told he’d have no quality of life.

However, these pair of devoted parents had other plans for their son and gave Rick every opportunity of inclusion in all life events.

With the help from an adapted computer, Rick was able to communicate his desires for his life using a tap of a head switch to tell his parents his dream was to run a 5K race.

It would become the first of over 1,000 races which led to participation in triathlons.

Although they have slowed down their pace, neither Dick or Rick have retired from living life to the fullest and accomplishing these physical achievements together.

Paul Smith, known to the world by his distinct and unique artwork passed away at the age of 85.

But leaves a lasting legacy on the remarkable abilities of a man without the ability to grasp writing utensils, eat, dress himself or express his thoughts, yet he pressed on.

Against all odds it took him 16 years before learned how speak and 32 years before he was able to walk.

Although you’d think that alone would have been the biggest accomplishment of his lifetime, his claim to fame was when he realized he could create masterpieces of art by using a manual typewriter.

Paul’s artwork was created merely using a handful of symbols on the typewriter.

His desire to create art was simply a hobby and a leisurely way to pass time. He gave himself little credit for the amazing and talented artist he had become.

Paul was the first trailblazer for those with Cerebral Palsy in the art world.

With today’s advanced technology, countless others are following in his footsteps able to creativity not to be confined with the limits of the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy.

Visually it may appear that someone with Cerebral Palsy is limited in capabilities.

However, they are individuals that possess such a tremendous drive and determination to show the world just exactly how much they can accomplish and achieve if you just believe in them and give them the platform to go the distance.

Awareness is key in teaching others about the value of inclusion and helping cultivate these incredible life achievements and goals.

“Don’t count me out… I have been built and strengthened by life’s battles. When you think I’m tired; I’m just getting started.”Steve Maraboli

Cerebral Palsy Parenting & Guilt

When I say guilt I certainly don’t mean anything sinister – just guilt in the sense that you often resent your lack of free time, or you sometimes may feel that you are not doing everything possible for your child.

It may be something simple like you think you look at your phone too much when you could be investing valuable bonding time with your child.

I have since learned that when your child is diagnosed with something like cerebral palsy that this guilt is magnified tenfold.

The variety of ways in which this guilt can manifest itself is quite astounding…for me I get this on loop (and I am sure that many others in this position are the same from what I have discussed with fellow SN parents).

Here are a few examples:

– “Am I doing enough therapies? Should we be doing more physio? Is she going in the standing frame enough?

– “Am I researching enough alternative therapies? Other mums seem to be trialling a lot of things I have barely even googled”

(On a similar note) “Am I trying to hard to look for other therapies? I don’t want people to think I’m trying to ‘fix’ her, I just want what’s best for her”

– “Am I doing enough ‘typical’ mum stuff like playing games and singing?

What if all these hospital visits and appointments and exercises etc are too much and I’m hindering her learning about the world around her?”

– “Oh my gosh I need a break. My back is killing, I’ve had no me time, I wish someone would take her for a few hours”

This then turns into horrified guilt for not wanting your child with you every waking moment!

(Having children is of course synonymous with always being exhausted and wanting a break!)

– “Do I let her watch too much TV?” – The TV is barely off in our house, and when we are out the ipad comes with us.

At the moment we hope it is a phase/behavioural or sensory issue and that eventually we’ll come to an understanding with it!

This is a constant guilt for me.

– Every appointment where I discuss Amy’s irritable and difficult behaviour I have this sinking sore feeling that I am being a bad advocate for her and hope that she understands I am just trying to improve the situation, not talk her down.

One of the first things to happen when you arrive in this strange world of cerebral palsy and special needs parenting is that specialists very much like to visit you at home… and if they are not at your home they are expecting you in clinic, writing to you, phoning you, and indeed appearing to you in your subconscious mind as you sleep.

The onslaught of appointments can sometimes be unrelenting but we persevere, we tell ourselves “this is essential for the development and well being of my child”.

At the same time there is a little voice in the back of my head saying “with each foot through that door you are allowing your child to have a life very different from that of ‘typical kids’

… why not just cancel this weeks’ appointments and go to the park?”

There are the dangerous guilts too where you think too far into the future and scare yourself.

There are the dangerous ones where you wonder if you had done something differently would things be the same. Stop these. If you do this – stop!

It is so unhelpful and damaging that I am learning now to acknowledge my worries but then put them back away where they belong.

So as you can probably ascertain – It is quite draining living in my head sometimes.

I know there will be plenty of others in this constant cycle of worry and guilt – I am told it is perfectly normal and at least shows that you are always thinking about what is best for your child.

If I were to give any advice to anyone in the same situation I would advise to make lots of lists – All of your worries, all of your concerns, everything you want to google and research, everything you want to ask in your appointments that week.

Just try to be as organised as you can and push these little niggling concerns to the back of your mind.

It’s okay to feel guilt – You have taken on a lot more than you originally expected to sign up for.

Yes it’s hard work, but it’s so rewarding. It’s okay sometimes to have a break from it all and go to the park in favour of physio.

Equally it’s also fine to leave your child with a grandparent whilst you catch up on chores or have some “you” time.

It’s so difficult to find the balance and ensure you are definitely doing the right thing, but trust me – you are.

The Importance of Friendships and Social Opportunities for Children With Special Needs

Parents of special needs children will probably need to work a little harder in helping their kids cultivate and keep friendships going than parents of typically developing children do.

Our kids may actually need to be taught how to be a good friend!

Below are some strategies parents of special needs children may want to consider in their quest for helping their children find and keep friends.

• First I recommend role playing with your child about how to treat their friends.

Reading social stories could be also included in these lessons.

• Be sure to insist that social skills training be included in your child’s IEP, and then make sure that it actually gets done!

• Invite kids from your child’s class at school or place of worship over for supervised play dates/lessons.

• Get your special little someone involved in community sponsored special needs social activities such as Special Olympics, clubs, special needs dances, dance classes, art classes, or special needs sports activities.

• If possible do not entirely rule out including your child in the same classes, clubs, and activities that their typically developing peers are attending as well!

• If you feel that your child might need a little more help making and keeping friends try enrolling him or her in a special needs social skills club where he or she could get in some practice ‘being social” with his or her peers in safe and supervised environment.

Your child is sure to gain some valuable social skills while also having fun and making friends!

• If you feel that your child needs a more professional and structured approach to learning social skills you might even want to consider consulting with a licensed and trained behavioral therapist who specializes in such matters.

One on one social skills therapy sessions with an experienced and successful therapist could prove to be very beneficial in your child’s quest to make and maintain friendships!

My daughter Bethany has been attending Flash Club, a social club for children who have autism at our local YMCA for quite a while now.

She greatly looks forward to playing basket ball, swimming, and dancing with her friends every week.

In fact, club is her favorite part of the week! She even has a “boy friend” at club! We are hoping to one day take her club relationships one step further by setting up get-together’s with some of the other children outside of club!

Bethany has gained a bonus skill from attending Flash Club.

As a result of the activity changing every eight weeks, she has gradually learned to process, accept and adapt to changes in her routines and plans.

She has generalized this very important skill into other areas of her life as well! How ever you choose to handle it, helping your child make and maintain friendships is one of the best things you could ever do for your child!