Social invitations can be as simple as an offer to play jump rope or as complicated as going to the prom. Most children and teens with special needs are as concerned about social invitations as their peers. Some children on the autism spectrum, some children with low cognitive abilities, and some with behavior disorders are not as aware or concerned.
Often social invitations come from a child's siblings and the siblings' friends. Being included for a movie or a trip to the mall can be a very positive experience. Encourage your children to include each other in activities, and to do things with their own groups of friends to avoid resentments.
Peers with Special Needs
Your child will have friends from his special education program. Because these programs often draw from a larger area than the neighborhood school, it will be a little harder for you to organize time for your child to see his friends.
If your child's friends will need a parent to accompany them, consider the following regular get-togethers:
A regular afternoon at the park
After-school pizza and a movie
A mini bowling league
Look again at your schedule and prioritize get-togethers for your child and his friends. You don't have to drop everything or only focus on making this happen, but realize that a consistent effort will have a big payoff for your child's self esteem.
Peers Without Special Needs
If your child is in an inclusion classroom for part of the day, he will have friends without special needs. For some children with learning disabilities, this is a natural occurrence. Having difficulty with reading has nothing to do with success at baseball. Not remembering math facts does not impact clothes fashion.
Encouraging “friend time” with these peers is also important. As an adult, your child will function in a world where there is no separation between those with special needs and those without. It is critical for him to be involved and feel comfortable with all of his peers.
Making your child's socialization a priority is again necessary (but should not be all-encompassing). There may be some awkwardness or social ice to be broken because your child leaves the “regular” classroom for special education services, but socialization and appropriate education are equally important for the development of your child.
As they approach their tween and teen years, children become more aware of the opposite sex and want to spend more time together. Set your ground rules and make sure your expectations are clear.
See if your community has a location for teens with special needs to get together. If nothing is available, consider recruiting other parents to organize something on a regular basis. Music, dancing, movies, pizza, and bowling are popular with most crowds. The key is to make this a time with supervision but minimal parent involvement.