Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friendly Encounters of the Special Kind

Making friends for any child can be scary and intimidating, but when it is successful, children can meet people who may be a part of their life for a long time. As we all know, friends are an important part of growing up. Children with special needs are no different. They need that experience as well. If your child is non-verbal and/or has physical challenges, it may be a task that involves creativity and planning. Here are a few ideas that may help you get started:

Get a class list
Ask the teacher if it is okay for them to share the names and contact information of the students in the classroom. This list of names gives you an opportunity to talk with your student about the children in the class. If it seems that your child has interest in a few, you may try contacting the parents.

One day while visiting my son’s classroom, I noticed another child putting his arm around my son and trying to sit next to him. I made contact with the mom and we had a “playdate” at our house – playing in our backyard sandbox.

A Safe Place to Meet
Once you speak with another child’s family, try finding a place that would meet the needs of both children.

Nevin Park has an all accessible playground – great for children using a wheelchair, walker or feet to get around. The playground features swings, ramps, climbing toys, stationery race cars and picnic tables. It is free and parking is easy.
www.charmeck.org
6000 Statesville Road (704) 336-3586

ImaginOn is a library especially for children. It is a wonderful place for kids to explore. It is free and often has programming like story-time, music or Spanish classes. Parking is free for the first 90 minutes. Handicap parking, doors and elevators easily accessed.
www.imaginon.org
300 East Seventh St. (704) 416-4600

Matthews 10 Movies is an inexpensive way to get to see a movie on the big screen – about $2 per ticket. They usually feature at least one G or PG movie on weekends during the early afternoon.
www.cinemark.com
9508 Northeast Court, Matthews 1-800-FANDANGO Exp Code 1440#

These playdates should be short – 1-2 hours. Communication between both families needs to be clear so that everyone knows what is to be expected. I recommend that both children have a parent or family member present during the time together.

Last year, I found out that my son held hands each day with the boy in the wheelchair next to him on the bus. We invited this boy and his sister over for a movie and popcorn. When the family arrived, my son went wild – his excitement was unbelievable. The nervousness, trepidation and worry I had, disappeared immediately and I knew that the risk I took was well worth it.

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