Special needs is a very broad term to use when describing children. In today's society, many children are being diagnosed with learning disabilities and emotional disorders. These children are also being labeled as special needs alongside children with physical disabilities. Whilst one can never compare the experiences faced by these amazing children, the way in which parents and loved ones communicate with them may sometimes be different.
Children with emotional disorders require a more sensitive or tolerant approach. Communicating with them can be somewhat challenging as they range from shy to introverted to aggressive. My husbands niece is 13 years old, when I met her she was only 6 and extremely shy at the time. My approach with her was very different to other 6 year olds. I had to earn her trust so she could allow me to enter her world. It was difficult at the time but I didn’t force her to do or say anything she wasn’t ready to do. When she played with her arts and crafts or wanted to bake, I would subtly show interest and those little common interests would make the world of difference. And whilst some may call her a special needs child because of a few learning disabilities, she is just a regular teenager when she's around people she trusts and loves. Some children struggle with self regulation and emotional communication which can lead to aggressive behavior to express a need. These kids require their loved ones to be more tolerant. It can be extremely difficult to be calm when you have an ADHD toddler running around, but the approach in which you handle the situation is of utmost importance.
Kids with physical disabilities on the other hand may want a more regular approach. Because of their impairment and its debilitating effect on their body, most kids with physical disabilities may want their parents to treat them the same as their siblings and not mollycoddle them. Talk to children with special needs the same as any other child. This may result in better responses from the child if they feel like you are treating them like other children their age.
Remember, communication doesn't always mean talking. You can build your relationship with special needs kids by doing things that they enjoy as well, such as music, art and even through touch which improves sensory development. Find ways for your special needs child to express themselves in manners that they feel safe with. On the days that my niece doesn't feel like talking very much, maybe because we haven't seen each other in a while, I noticed that she draws me pretty pictures (often praising me for the delicious food I made her). This to me is a form of communication, one that she enjoys and feels safe with.
According to Unity Point, Social Stories, developed by Carol Gray, are visual or written guides to describe different situations which could include skills, social interactions, or behaviors. Social stories help children, especially autistic children, manage social situations. For those children who struggle with transitions during their day, creating a schedule using pictures can help them understand what activity is next on the schedule, making transitions easier. You could also introduce puppets and let your child with special needs communicate through that. Remember, as parents, we our kids first teachers.
The most important thing to remember is that children with special needs may require a different approach but at the end of the day they enjoy the exact same things as other kids and want to be treated the same way. The key is to find a way of communicating that both you and the child can enjoy and achieve.
I had to take back my life, even just a little part of it. Mornings are when I feel best; energetic, motivated, optimistic.
We're not perfect OR we're perfect just the way we are. My son arrived into the world with this affirmation. He's now a few hours away from being 4 years old. This day, and the hours before he glowed into our lives remains stamped- forever. But what did I know about being a mother or a parent? And has that really changed after almost 4 years?