How You Can Help A Child With Special Needs

Kids, as we all know, can be vicious. Being an outsider is not a good place to be. I’m sure we can all remember some terrible things that happened to kids we knew, or knew of growing up. Maybe we even remember bad things that happened to us. Without Isa I would have never known about children with special needs. I would have never known about their potential. When Isa and I first met I was like the majority of people. I was totally clueless.

I had no idea how many different variations and degrees of special needs there are. To be embarrassingly honest, I thought there was “mentally retarded” and that was it. It never occurred to me that there was a reason that some people talked funny. It never occurred to me that there was a reason some of the kids in school “just didn’t get it”.

As kids we were not educated by parents or other professionals. We were left to be clueless.

Thankfully I had a tendency to take up for the kids that were different. So at least I don’t have that weighing on my conscience. But I would like to think that if I knew then what I know now I would have done more.

The point is that we as parents, teachers and health professionals can make the world better for these children. How we treat them makes a huge difference. Children take their cues from us.

For example, when doing research for our social skills classes I came across a story about a child with a learning disorder who had been moved into a mainstream class. He had performed very well in a smaller class, but once he moved into the mainstream he began to go downhill fast.

It seemed that everything he did was wrong. The kids picked on him. And even though the teacher had welcomed the idea of bringing him into the class, she too was showing her frustration with him.

To make a very long story short, a specialist was brought in to make suggestions about how to help the child. Some very minor changes were made to help him behave and perform better. In turn the teacher gained a better attitude towards him and showed it. And the children who had once picked on him now helped him.

The teacher and the specialist believed that it was the teacher’s change in attitude that resulted in the change in how the children treated him.

Granted, it doesn’t always happen this way. The road to failure is, in fact, paved with good intentions. Trying to force acceptance raises resentment. And getting carried away with special treatment can backfire.

But raising awareness about these issues is a good thing.

The process isn’t always fast. But change does happen. Because of Isa, I have experienced it first hand. She has this understated, but obvious, enthusiasm for what she does. She believes in what she does, and more importantly she believes in the potential of the children.

Aside from my own perspectives, seeing the affect she has on other people’s lives is remarkable. I am proud to have witnessed it for the last eleven years of my life, and ten years of marriage.

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Jason Marrs

Jason Marrs is the Director of Research and Awareness for the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. Read More