" She has a daughter also with Downs. Non verbal, I think she is 6. Play date possibly?"
This was a response I saw on a Facebook post. It sparked some thought in me. The lady that originally posted also has a non verbal girl with Down syndrome. I thought two girls that can't talk "playing" together. Where's the benefit? To me, it seems like that's a meet up more for the moms to bounce ideas off each other and feel a little less lonely in the world as far as being a parent to a special needs kiddo goes. But with the amazing abilities of social media you can join Facebook groups that do that same thing.
The lady that posted the reply meant well. But as a parent of a special needs kiddo I can tell you that while I welcome play dates with other special needs kids, I have found that most of the time special needs kids don't always react the way you would expect when placed with another special needs kiddo. Many times it compounds the issue. What I mean is that special needs kids many times are still trying to figure out the world in their heads, it's confusing to them. They get used to how the nuero-typical world works and then you throw a wrench in the system. Many times they understand their issues but they don't understand others.
I would love and welcome play dates from nuero-typical kids that have been taught tolerance and acceptance. That go out of the way to see that they are literally changing a life. I would love to see parents showing their kids what that looks like.
I remember a few years ago we had gone to Hawaiian Falls waterpark and I had bought some cushy water balls to take with us to play with. Cade was in the water trying to convince Addie to play with him, but she wanted to do her own thing. Along come two preteen boys. At first I was a little concerned. What were this little punks were gonna do (because all teenagers are up to no good, right?) and then, they started playing with Cade and his toys. I'll be honest I kinda thought they would decide to play "keep away" from him and I would have to intervene and help him. But then my faith in teenagers was restored as they were letting Cade throw the balls to them and then giving then back to him. It was such a sweet moment for me as a mom and they totally made his day! They asked me if Cade could go different places with them and while I was a little skeptical as to WHY these boys would want to hang out with Cade I allowed them to take him and explained some of his challenges. They were so sweet. I tried to buy them ice cream and cotton candy, they would not let me. I told them how much they had blessed me, they told me it was no big deal and really nothing special. It was truly what Cade needed, he needed friends, he needed someone that could recognize he was different and then give him grace. There are times that special needs kids just can't extend grace to each other. That takes reasoning skills they often times don't have.
I also remember one time Addie's kindergarten teacher brought her to the car at pickup. She explained that Addie was so good at befriending one little boy in particular. He was in regular classes but had some "issues" that caused many kids to not like him or want to play with him. Not Addie! She tolerated him, she accepted him. The teacher said if he hit her, she would just hit him back and they would continue playing. It just worked. I might have cried! I just looked at her with huge tears in my eyes and thanked her for being nice to a boy that no one else wanted to be friends with. Thanked her for showing him what a real friend looked like. It was a sweet moment.
But I can't say that I would have always encouraged that. There was a time in my life where people with special needs kinda frightened me. I'm sure much of that was out of fear that I wouldn't know what to do if something happened. I also know that those with neurological disorders can be volatile and I never wanted to place myself in a situation where i didn't know what to do. So God made me a mom. Of a special boy. Life is unpredictable. What will upset him is unpredictable. And you just roll with the punches.
Id like to teach my kids to love special friends better than I did, or better than I knew how. I would like to instill in them understanding for what other people are going through or how they are feeling (sometimes I really struggle here too) and I would like them to know that sometimes just being a friend in that moment might change someone's whole day!
So sometimes what I really need is for my special needs kiddo to be able to play with nuero-typical kids and them know and understand he has challenges. That he may say or do something that seems odd. That he might want to play weird things. But for today, he just needs a friend.