Monday, August 25, 2014

The life skill more kids with special needs should learn

School officials in Jurupa Valley, California, apologized last week for having Patriot High School students in special ed sort through campus trash bins for recyclables. The activity was part of a functional skills program, which also includes doing a budget, purchasing groceries and cooking meals. Outraged parents condemned administrators for humiliating and stigmatizing students with special needs.

This got me thinking about the life skills Max is learning. At school, he's gotten guidance with feeding, dressing and toileting. His teacher has been wonderful at helping us reinforce manners; Max now regularly says "please" and "thank you," especially if you take him to visit a fire station. But there's one life skill Max isn't picking up at school or at any of the special programs he attends: socializing with so-called typical peers. It isn't happening much at home, either.

This has been on my mind since we returned from family camp, where Max loved hanging out with the siblings of kids with special needs. Really, it's been on my mind for years, and I haven't put as much effort into this as I should mainly because Max has been content with the school and programs with which he's involved and I have, too. Through a Friendship Circle program, 13-year-old twins come to visit with him once a week; they're great, but it's not enough.

Including him in our local public school isn't the best option for him, for various reasons, as much as I'd like it to be. So we're looking into inclusive camps for next summer, along with year-round inclusionary programs. I'm also going to ask around my neighborhood for kids who would be up for hanging out. I've tried variations of this before and nothing has lasted, but it's worth another go.

This would benefit other kids, along with Max. They need to learn how to communicate with kids who have special needs—as in, they need to better understand that in many ways, they are just like they are.

It's good for all children to be exposed to kids of all kinds of abilities. But it's especially key for kids like Max who have been living mostly in a special needs world. It's up to me and Dave to expand his horizons, and prepare him for the real world.


  1. I think we all could use a dose of learning how to make more friends, especially since being a special needs mom can be so isolating.

  2. This is why I fought to have my daughter with Down Syndrome in a "regular" classroom. She starts kindergarten in an inclusionary classroom tomorrow- 1 classroom teacher, 1 special ed teacher in the room 1/2 the day and 20 kids-8 with special needs. It is written in her IEP she will be in the grade level inclusionary classroom each year and I couldn't be more excited. -And sad my oldest daughter going to Kindergarten! The fact she went to full day preschool(inclusion in morning, special ed w/ focus on receiving services) for two years doesn't make it any easier on this Momma.

  3. Part of the journey is to come to an understanding of what true friendship is. Ms 18 has very clear interests, loves and hates. And her real friends that she can pick up the phone and talk to, or get together with and jump right in to the last conversation they had previously, or laugh/cry with are the friends that she will keep. It happens that most of these people also have disabilities. A couple do not, but these are really artificially created friendships, with girls who genuinely like the things that Ms 18 does and like her but they have moved beyond…. it's not really a level playing field any more. While I like full inclusion and support all educational and social choices, eventually, if we really let our kids decide, they will fall to those friends who they truly have things in common with and can interact equally with - just as we do ourselves. And it is fantastic!

  4. My son needed service points for Confirmation when he was in 7th grade
    He participated in activities like snow shoveling for housebound senior citizens, helping a neighbor with MS make and decorate Christmas cookies to serve at a Christmas Eve party, giving one on one soccer lessons to a younger child and taking his young cousin to a playground so my sister with the migraine headache could get some sleep. He read countless books to his younger siblings.
    Look for a student like that at area private schools and CCD programs--they will be happy to speak with you and I would imagine you will get some volunteers
    Best of luck

  5. I agree with you every "special needs" kid should learn that skill but please don't push it i'm 23 and when my mom sees people my age at social events she asks them to come and sit with me it's embarrassing not to mention awkward.

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  7. Try again! ;-)

    We started with church and Sunday school, relatives and neighbors. Cindy was always popular and had a best friend in both states we lived in. Jessica, her first and BFFL, is married and a new mom and still keeps in touch eight years since Cindy's death. Nichole always had friends, but never close friends and now her caregiver of 6+ years openly tells people (and it is sincere) that Nichole is her bestie, despite race, age and social differences. They are both all the stronger for their unique strong bond.

  8. I am a school based Physical therapist and love the idea of inclusion- when done appropriately. It can be extremely isolating when teacher awareness about a particular diagnosis is not there or if they see the student negatively ( wrong placement and should not be in the class).
    Increasing teacher awareness about how they can handle the blocks in teaching them using strategies that facilitate their "learning styles" and increasing awareness among neurotypical peers about how to approach them and increasing their awareness about why they act differently , would go a long way in improving social skills in school environments.
    At home...the onus is on the parents. I dont have special needs children , but when I moved in my present neighbourhood, there were way too many conflicts between the little ones and the concept of "cliques" was dominant. The way I handled it- I sent out an email to the parents introducing myself and offered to address play skills when they were playing. I did this by googling "conflict management in kids", got that video, played it at a neighbours place, did some role playing with it and watched the kids from a distance for the next month. Whenever appropriate- did some role playing and reminded them of similar situations that we watched and...... 12 years later....all the kids in our little neigbourhood ( 70 families) are good friends. They still have their "preferred" friends, but they all can have a good time together!!!!
    We may just be the only neighborhood, that the police had to come and warn the kids at 10pm on a friday night- to keep their voices low as they played "hide and seek" in the backyard!!!
    It was work at that time and seemed quite frustrating....but it was all worth it at the end!
    My point is- everyone needs the coaching- the special needs child and everyone playing with them too!

  9. I need to learn to fold clothes, but I just roll them. It saves space, time, and effort.


Thanks for sharing!

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