I have always taught Bella to include other children in her play ever since she could talk. If she see’s another child who is alone, then I encourage her to make contact. She knows the line “Hi my name is Bella, whats yours? Do you want to play?” I also do this to give her confidence which she will build on as she grows up.
I don’t have any siblings so when I was young and we were away on a family holiday, my parents would say “Right, off you go, you have 24 hours to make a friend.” They weren’t being mean, they were encouraging me to get out there and meet people. I didn’t have ready made friends to play with in the form of a brother or sister and I was sometimes shy as a youngster. It felt awkward at first but it did help grow my confidence. I’ve never been short of friends and I’ve always been able to talk to anyone at work or in a social setting. So as shy as I was, thanks Mum and Dad for the lesson, it serves me well now.
This skill set is also valuable when we are out and about and see other families who’s children have additional needs and disabilities. During the hot weather of the summer break, we have been to a number of parks with splash pools and in a recent visit my Mum and I took Bella and Freddie out. Most often we are the only family there with a child with SN. This time though I saw another Mum with her two children, one neurotypical and the other in a wheelchair. I thought, bloody hell she is brave coming out here alone. She has got way more guts than me. I could see people staring at the family and her discomfort. I felt it too. It stings. You so want to blend in but you just don’t.
I wasn’t sure what to do. My heart wanted to go over and talk to her but I wasn’t sure if she would want me to. Lets face it, it depends on how your day has been so far doesn’t it? I asked Bella to go over to the little girl and see if she wanted to play. I told her that I could see her Mummy needed to focus on her brother just for the time being so it would be nice for her to have some fun. Off she trotted and they played together. Freddie didn’t really want to get in the water this time and was happy playing ball with my Mum. So, I decided to take the chance and go over. I’m so glad I did. She said how uncomfortable she felt, knowing people were staring. I offered to help and just be there. What a lovely Mum. We chatted a little and I watched her little girl with Bella whilst they found somewhere to change. Sometime just having that little bit of support from someone else who understands can give you a boost.
So, if you see another parent struggling and perhaps you don’t have a child with Special Needs but you do know how good it feels to have a friend with you, go over and say hi. We don’t bite.
That little skill of being able to go up to a stranger and make a connection is so important. It helps make the world go round. I know I have always been grateful when another parent has seen me. I mean, really seen me, with compassion, and they haven’t been afraid to talk.
SWAN UK Blogger
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