How Kids with Special Needs can Build Healthy Friendships
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Be active in your child's school life.
Many schools are creating innovative programs that address bullying and teasing, especially with respect to children with special needs, Cortilet says. Be proactive and request that your child's school be forward-thinking. Peer mentor programs help children with special needs develop self-esteem and self-confidence, creating a support system that helps them find the courage to initiate social interaction with their peers.
Teach children to embrace differences.
Children fear the unknown, and they often shy away from playing with kids who are different from them. Promoting tolerance and acceptance of children with and without special needs will help foster a mutual understanding between the two, Cortilet says. She stresses the importance of starting this education early. "We have to educate young children on 'differences' and work hard on defeating stereotypes, stopping the usage of language that demeans others, like the 'R' word, or making fun of others," says Cortilet. "Parents of typical children can educate their children on talking about their own feelings and confusion when they see behaviors that are not typical. Educating all children in social competencies, such as problem-solving, decision-making, and developing caring relationships with different kinds of children is critical."
Limit social media.
In a recent conference featuring Temple Grandin, a best-selling author and a highly influential autistic adult, Cortiles says Grandin recommended parents to limit their child's use of social media because it inhibits his ability to develop communication skills and may even make a child more reclusive. "Children with ASD are drawn to social media as a special interest, for social withdrawal, and for various other reasons," Cortilet explains. Children with special needs, in general, often use social media as a way to avoid direct contact. It is important to take your child outside, away from the computer or phone, and allow him or her to have face-to-face interactions with peers.
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