What you need to know about kids with special needs (an outsiders perspective)

I was an instructional aide and I had the privilege of working with special needs children. I mostly worked with children that have Down syndrome, Autism, cerebral Palsy, and orthopedic impairments. I love my job, I love who I have become because of it. Without this job I feel I would have missed a lot of Christ’s creations. These children have taught me more than I could have ever taught them. I was only 17 when I started , I became an adult while working there, I got married, and had my daughter.  A lot of my character was developed there, my young eyes were exposed to the world. I am thankful for every single moment…seriously. 


What you need to know about kids with special needs

They can do it!
For the love of all that is good…GIVE THEM A CHANCE!!!! They will surprise you. I guarantee it. Even if they end up needing help, don’t just write off their capabilities. I have seen so many people make the excuse, “oh, he has down syndrome he can’t.” “ he belongs in functional skills.”  This by far was the hardest thing for me to see. Because they have a special need, doesn’t mean you have no expectations… have them, push them, encourage them, and above all do it with love, and they will grow! They will surprise you! The worst that can happen is they don't get, but if you don't given them a chance, the will miss out on so much more. 

They have feelings too. They Want to be Included.
I have on many occasions had to help my students get over hurt feeling’s because no one wanted to play with them or some asked “What’s wrong with her face?” There are times I have talked to my students and they are sad because they have never been invited to a birthday party. Here is the thing, Most of the time they know what you’re saying, they are aware of what is around them. Talk to your children about how to be kind to children with special needs. How nothing is “wrong,” they’re not “sick,” they’re not “broken.” Instead tell them that they were just born different, to help us see things differently, they were born to help us see the beauty in things, to teach us kindness, and compassion. How boring would this world be if we all looked the exact same way?   Tell them that they too can be good friends. Tell them to not be afraid. Instead tell them to be patient. Oh, and invite them to your kids parties, They won’t ruin it. I promise. Their parents will mostly likely stay close by and may even lend you a helping hand. (in my experience, they have always helped and never has there been a "incident")


They Make good friends.

I am not just talking about the individuals with special needs,  but also their families. Why, because they get it. They really do. They know what it is to have struggled. They know about having to fight for your family. They totally understand you when you are at your wit’s end. Now, they may not come over every weekend, or talk on the phone for hours but the second you need them, they will be there. Some of my closest friends, the people I feel I can trust, are the families of my former students. Like I said, they just get it. 

As far a the children with special needs, there are challenges when it comes to being friends with a child or adult with special needs. Let's be real for a moment, having friends, especially as children is a challenge anyway.  When it comes to special needs some challenges could be with recognizing physical space or moving from one activity to the next. Realistically,  you learn to work with it, The biggest advice I can give you, is teach your child to be vocal about what is too much. Here is an example. I have a friend with down syndrome who comes to play with my 3 year old. We will call her Dee. Dee loves to hug, she doesn't always know she is hugging too tightly or too long or just to frequently. My three old will tell her "Dee, that's too much," Dee will often say back, "Oh, sorry." Don't be afraid to help them learn. They need this.  My three year can handle it, and she loves her Friends with special needs. She begs to have play dates with them. She is also learning a lot from being around other children with special needs. To tell you the truth, I don't think she sees a difference right now. Dee has been part of her life since before she was born. It's just normal for us. 


They Will Change Your Life

I know, I know "How cliche" It is so true! I don't know what it is. I know I wouldn't be the same person without these experiences I would be the woman nor the mother I am today. I never woke up thinking " I want to work with special ed." In fact, I got the job out of desperation after the law firm relocated to a place that was over an hour away. I thought, this would be temporary, I would go get my degree and leave. I never thought my career goals would change, so that I could stay in this environment. I feel like I found myself, through my students, They made me slow down and look at the beauty around me. On a particularly challenging day, I was out a recess with my kids, I was in a bad mood, then one of my students came and hugged me and said Mrs. K, It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the sky is blue!!! Then she skipped away happy as a bee. As silly as is sounds. She turned my day around. I had been focusing on the wrong things. Experiences like this happened so often, they forced my perspective to change. Without that, who know what I would be today, 


Get out there, If you don't know anyone with special needs, go and volunteer at a school, the buddy walk, special olympics events. Have your Children befriend them at school. 

What have you learned or enjoyed about knowing an individual with special needs. 



6 comments:

  1. Jacky, what a great perspective! We have a club at the school I work at, it's called "Yes I Can". It's an inclusion club. We have mentors and mentes. The club has SPED students and Gen Ed students. The purpose of our club is to do exactly what you've written about. The mentors plan and carry out all of the curriculum. And no, the mentors are not all Gen Ed students. We do so many things together! Great friendships are formed, kids find out how awesome it is to be with people who break the stereotype of being "normal". There is no normal! Only different, and different ROCKS!!
    Maybe you can start a Yes I Can club at your school. I would be happy to help!!
    Thanks for your words!
    Joyce Stange ☺️

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    1. That is such a wonderful idea! I would love to hear more about how it started and how it runs!

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