By Louise Weadock
As parents, teaching our children about making friends and how to be a “good friend” is critical. Being a good friend often includes accepting and appreciating someone who may not have the same abilities and interests. So, it is vital to encourage your child to learn about being a friend to a child with a disability. At some point your child will surely have a classmate with special “issues” or needs. Feeling comfortable with those that are “the same” is easy, but understanding what makes us “different (but also, the same)” can be the first step towards a friendship that may turn out to be extremely fulfilling and beneficial to both your child with his “issues” and another child, who has different “issues.” Here are some ideas to emphasize:
1. Teach your child that being different is “ok.” No two people are the same–some differences are just more noticeable. And, although you may not share exactly the same abilities or interests, there are always common activities you can both enjoy together.
2. Tell your child, if he is curious, that it’s ok to ask questions about “WHY the difference?” Life is like a box of chocolates…WHAT makes each so different? Encourage both children to ask each other questions.
3. Explain that children can be born challenged or become challenged from an accident or illness.You can’t “catch” a disability from someone else.
4. Remind your child that a special need or issue, a difference or disability, is just one characteristic of a person. In fact, as a child Beethoven was challenged in one area, but extremely GIFTED in another!
5. Let your child know that children with challenges are often smarter or stronger. Why? Because they have to “get over” their challenge in order to “keep up.” Planting this seed may be enough to start an amazing friendship for both children!
6. Emphasize feelings that ALL children share: We all want friends, respect and to be included.
7. Applaud your child’s kindness, inclusive and Respectful language when talking about someone with disabilities, and reinforce that mean names or jokes HURT and are never acceptable.
8. Reading or learning about special needs and disabilities can increase understanding and help to dispel any questions you or your child may have.
9. Above all, keep in mind: there’s no need for pity or sadness. Being different with a special gift or need is not a bad or good thing; each simply comes with its own set of challenges.
Building confidence, making friends and developing social skills is at the core of every program and activity at WeeZee…World of “Yes I Can!” including its popular Summer Camp and After School program (with different themes each week!), for which registration is now underway. The 18,000 square foot play space has been designed to make it easy for children to find things in common and easily socialize. Children on every level move through a host of highly engaging, interactive and imaginative sensory activities that exercise and strengthen intellectual, physical and social skills. WeeZee’s Sensory Coaches have been specially trained to teach children how to act in a spirit of cooperation, acceptance and inclusion.
WeeZee is Westchester’s only inclusive “family play space” offering kids of all abilities, ages 1-12, and their parents an expansive gym equipped with the latest state-of-the-art sports and fitness equipment and games.
The colorful, interactive facility is a matrix of large space and small rooms containing 135 plus unique attractions including a “Rainforest & Storm Zone,” a “Vibration Station,” an “Oxygen Bar” and “Cyber Action Floor;” as well as Sport Stalls and Reaction Sports Training; and a Music Room with a sound studio and a Karaoke room. The equipment and programs at WeeZee are based on a plethora of research by the Autism community.
Parents are invited to “play for free” or unwind in the “Zen Den” that features dim lighting, soothing music, iPads and full-body massage chairs–while their children are fully supervised as they follow their Sensory Fitness Plan or engage in Free Play.
Conveniently located at 480 Bedford Road in Chappaqua right off Exit 33 on the Saw Mill Parkway (in the Chappaqua Crossing complex), WeeZee is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on non-school nights. For more info, go to weezeeworld.com
Louise Weadock is the founder of WeeZee…World of “Yes I Can!”