Kate Randall is a regular contributor to grkids.com. When she is not busy raising her two school-aged children, she helps other families through her role as a social worker for Hudsonville Community Schools. You can see a list of all her articles for grkids here.

by Kate Randall

Special Needs Kids Want to Feel Included, Too

Being a parent is hard. Being a parent of a child with special needs can be even harder. The challenges can range from learning to maneuvering public places to dealing with meltdowns to struggling to make friends. Every one of you reading this has had to help your own child through some sort of challenge. It’s hard to watch your child struggle.  

Unfortunately, I hear way too often from parents of kids with special needs that helping their child “fit in” can be very difficult. Whether you care to admit it or not, we as parents of “normal” children contribute to this problem. The good news is we can fix it!

RELATED: West Michigan Autism Resources for Families

Small Gestures go a Long Way

There was a story circulating around not too long ago about a boy with autism who had been invited to his first birthday party ever. The mom hosting the party thought to include a special note about what would be happening at the party and offered to let the boy come early if that would help him be more comfortable at the party. This was such a small gesture, yet meant so much to this boy’s mom. We all want to fit in. We all want to belong. It’s part of human nature. Why don’t more of us do things like this?  

I urge you to think about “that kid” in your child’s class. Encourage your child to sit with him or her at lunch or play with him or her at recess. Consider inviting that child over to play. Or invite that child to your child’s next birthday party. Who knows, it could be the highlight of that kid’s day… or even the highlight of your own kid’s day.

Eeyore Consideration

Find a School Program that Interacts with Special Needs Kids

My favorite part of my job is helping to facilitate a program called LINKS in Hudsonville Public Schools. LINKS is a peer to peer support program that helps students, many of whom are on the autism spectrum, feel more connected to their school community. I love seeing kids think outside of themselves and make an effort to ensure everyone feels like they belong. Our motto comes from Kid President: “Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.” So simple.

Hudsonville Links Program copy

Parent Resources for Special Needs Kids in West Michigan

Here are a few local resources for parents of special needs kids:

  • Special Parents Confidential is a podcast resource site that was started by a Grand Rapids family.  There are lots of valuable resources and links to many other useful websites.
  • There is a free parent support groups for families of children with special needs that meets on Tuesdays from 5:30-7:00 at the Kent County Health Department.  The schedule and more details can be found here.
  • Celebration Cinema offers “Sensory Showtimes,” where kids can see first run movies in a more comfortable setting (volume is down, lights are up, walking around is OK). 
  • The Family Hope Foundation offers support groups, fun outings, and even scholarship money to help cover therapy for kids with unique needs.

How could your child reach out to that special needs peer? Tell us in the comments–let’s help build up a community of thoughtful, inclusive kids!

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