Promoting friendships amongst special needs and non-disabled children and teens can be difficult, but can result in lasting relationships.One of the biggest obstacles to promoting such friendships is the social taboo of disability.
This taboo can be overcome by educating children about disabilities.Like everyone else, children and teens are often scared of the unknown; when they are unfamiliar with children and teens who suffer from disabilities they will be more likely to shy away from them. Educating all children, disabled and non-disabled alike, will promote tolerance and acceptance of the differences between them. This acceptance and understanding of one another will pave the way for lasting friendships.
Another issue that may need to be addressed is attention. Disabled children often require more attention than non-disabled children, which can make non-disabled children feel left out. This feeling of isolation may lead them to act out, either by ignoring the child receiving the attention or by misbehaving to compete for the attention. If both children can participate in the activity, then it is best to include everyone, even if it is geared toward one child or another. This inclusion will help build relationships and will promote an understanding between the children.
Another important part of promoting friendships between special needs and non-disabled kids and teens is to try and treat all of them as equally as possible. Every child is different and requires special care in one way or another, but it is important to avoid calling undue attention to these differences. By treating the children the same they will feel as though they belong to one cohesive group, rather than feeling as though they are two groups of children merged together.
Once educated, children and teens are often forgiving of the differences in others. With the proper knowledge and the right amount of attention, all children, disabled and non-disabled alike, will be able to learn how to build lasting friendships with one another.