As Covid hasn’t left us yet and our children head back to school, I think as parents, we have to balance the risk and rewards of keeping our children safe and continuing to help our children’s development.

One area which is so important is friendship, as it is such a wonderful gift and enriches our lives. 

There is nothing better than seeing your child enjoy being with their friends. However, a child with additional needs may sometimes find it hard to make and continue their friendships.

I noticed how it could be challenging for David to communicate with children his age as he was growing up. He found it hard to play or just couldn’t at times, also with his speech/hearing loss it was quite tricky. Grownups found it difficult sometimes to take the time to listen to him, and I can only imagine how hard it was for children. And as most of you know, David loves to talk and loves to socialise.

The teachers and Special Need Assistances tried to encourage this in school, and I also asked a physiologist for help.

A few tips that worked are as follows:

  • Ask their helper in school to see who they are trying to befriend and try to meet with that child’s parent at the school gate and set up a playdate.
  • See if your child is making an effort to include friends, help them say the right words to encourage friendships. (Roleplay)
  • Always ask two children for a playdate as “one” child may feel it could be challenging for them.
  • Bring your child with you as much as you can, shopping, coffee mornings, etc. If your friends have children, then this is an ideal time to introduce their children. 
  • Surround your child with children when you can so, maybe leave your child in crèche when you go shopping for a few hours. (check your Creche for Covid procedures, make sure your child is safe).
  • If you live in an estate, let your child go out and meet the other children, you can meet the parents as well. If this is too much, then ask the children’s parents if their child can play in your garden so you can watch your child and encourage them to play.
  • Let your child go to their friend’s house without you. (Just explain a little regarding your child’s condition as not to frighten the other parents, as I did!) 
  • Ask cousins out on play dates and to your house also. Make sure they are included in all parties. 
  • Let your child join clubs with other children that have similar abilities. 
  • Join parent groups yourself to see what other children are doing and what is available to you. You will feel better for it.

It can be challenging for you and your child; just keep encouraging your child every step of the way. When your child moves on to secondary school or moves home, try and keep up the relationships your child has already developed.

This was always a worry for me, and to be honest, as David is now 25, it was all a little bit unnecessary. David is always on his phone, and he uses his technology brilliantly; it’s his favourite way of communicating. He now phones at least 15 people per day, texts and email others. He is better than me at communication and keeping in touch. 

Until next time, stay safe