Getting to Really Know Each Other by k8326xD

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									Getting to Really Know Each Other
Sometimes, promoting friendship between younger children means looking
beyond the children themselves. Obstacles may come not from the children, but
from others.

A concern I've heard frequently from parents of kids with disabilities is that the
invitations and activities come only from their families and are not reciprocated. I
recently was involved in a discussion with a group of families in West Bend
where one reason for this came out.

We were coming up with ideas on how to motivate typically developing children
to reach out to their peers with disabilities when Jill, whose son has a physical
disability, said, "You may get a kid excited about inviting someone over to their
house or to their birthday, but if their parents are uncomfortable with it they'll find
lots of ways to keep it from happening. If parents are worried about a child's
health or behavior or communication skills, that child won't get invited - no matter
what the kids think."

Her words pointed to the need for the adults to speak openly without the fear of
embarrassment.

Lynn Dee, whose daughter has Down Syndrome, said to the group, "I certainly
don't want to impose my daughter on anyone so it's hard to bring it up myself.
But I love to talk about her, so if someone asks me about her I'm happy to
respond."

Those who are already uncomfortable with disability find it awkward and
intimidating to go up to a parent and say, "Tell me about Mary's disability." They
express fear of embarrassing Mary's mother or themselves.

We decided that what they can do is go up to that parent and say, "Tell me about
Mary," leaving it up to Mary's mom to decide what to say. Or they can say, "My
daughter wants to invite Mary over. Is there anything I need to know?"

Another way to put the "typical" parents at ease is to have a group of Mary's
peers over, because chances are they'll already know how adults address any
issues that Mary's disability might bring. For the first visit, they can also invite not
just Mary, but one of her parents as well.

As Lynn Dee said, "Just talk about the disability, get over it, and then everyone
can move on to getting to really know each other."

by Dennis Granzen
Reprinted from Family Footnotes
March 2002

								
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