I can count on one hand how many times my younger son who sometimes seems "different" has been invited to a birthday party or a play date. He is eleven years old! Children on the Autism Spectrum (in my case) will often have difficulty in social situations. Especially when they are younger and haven't had many opportunities to learn and practice social skills. Although they really want to participate, a birthday party or play date can often add even more stress and anxiety for the child.
The Younger Days
When my son was younger, he had a lot of meltdowns at school. Unfortunately, the first school he attended was not equipped to support nor understand him (putting this mildly). He was alienated, stigmatized, and rejected by some of the teachers and from many of his peers. Then came the teasing and bullying. Word spread about how he was "different", "aggressive", "out of control", and how "there must be something wrong with him".
Although things have tremendously improved all around once we moved and changed schools, he still doesn't get invited much. Yes, he is a little different, and he is still "over-reactive" at times when he is experiencing sensory overload or when being teased. But that doesn't mean he should be judged or excluded. Just last month another child in his class said to him "I am inviting all the boys to my birthday party except you because my mom said you have rage problems". He came got off the school bus at the end of the day in tears.
Fear and Ignorance
I am sure there are many parents out there who can relate to this. I think that some people are still "afraid" of the kid who is different, whatever the disability or challenge. They don't know what to think, what to believe, how to react, what to say. My advice; don’t judge, ignore, and exclude the child out of fear and ignorance, instead have the courage to ask questions.
Here are some examples of appropriate questions to ask: What is his diagnosis? How does his disability affect him? Does he require anything specific to get by? Are there specific foods he requires? Does he have sensory issues regarding food? Is a 2 hour playdate too long for him? Does he like birthday parties? What are his main areas of interest so that we can better try to connect with him? Can you come over with him for the first time just to make sure he is comfortable? What do I do if he has a meltdown? What should I do if he gets anxious?
Hopes and Dreams
Am I dreaming and hoping for a world where no child is segregated, excluded, nor rejected? You bet I am! I will continue to educate, spread awareness, advocate and fight for the rights of the "different kids" everywhere. I hope you will join me. Look out for the different ones, reach out to them. Reach out to their parents. They may be fighting battles that you can't even imagine. A show of support, an act of kindness often goes a long way. Thanks for reading!
BY: ANGELA MACIOCIA
Angela is a Mother of 2 awesome boys, wife, athlete, runner, dog lover, clean eating cooking fanatic, and an adult special education teacher. Angela blogs to share her journey, life experiences, training, meals, & health/wellness tips in hopes of helping, guiding, inspiring and most of all connecting with others. Angela has two boys ages 14 and 11. Her youngest is on the Autism Spectrum and her oldest has an ADHD diagnosis. She’s been in the field of special needs for over 20 years! She currently works for the Lester B Pearson school board. You can follow Angela at www.Angelamaciocia.com