All children want to play, make friends, and have fun! We all have many similarities and differences that make us unique. Children who have disabilities may not look or act like you. A wheelchair, hearing aids, or glasses are other aspects that make us unique. Remember to RESPECT similarities and differences, and celebrate the different ways people play and learn.
Create an atmosphere of acceptance by introducing yourself, offering a warm and welcoming smile, or giving a high five to celebrate accomplishments. Choosing an activity next to a friend with disability demonstrates that you care about their feelings and that you genuinely enjoy their company. Some children will have difficulty approaching you to ask you to play, but that doesn't mean they don't want to be included or make a new friend. Other children will see how you acted with compassion and KINDNESS and may follow your lead, encouraging more children to play together.
It feels good when we can do things by ourselves and all children like to show others how they can do things on their own. Before assisting others in play, ask them if they need help and wait for a response. Some children might look like they need help or may do things at a slower pace, but they may be working on a skill or waiting until they are ready to participate. Sometimes this will take PATIENCE, but remember to let everyone do as much as they can as independently as possible.
You may see something that may be considered challenging for some players on the playground. Some children with special needs may not see or fully understand these potential risks. Act with RESPONSIBILITY, and signal an adult verbally or through gestures and tell your friend you are going to get help.
In order to develop new friendships, it is important to gain the trust of others. All children want friends that they can rely on when they need someone to talk to, hang out with, or just feel comfortable around. TRUSTWORTHINESS means you are a dependable and honest friend that others can count on.
Be creative to find new ways to include others so that everyone can play together and have equal opportunities during play. For example, if you want to play in the sand with a friend who uses a wheelchair, let them use an accessible digger or fill up a container with sand to play on their lap or tray. When you demonstrate FAIRNESS, it shows that you care about everyone's right and ability to play.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! Accommodating individual differences and learning how others play and communicate may take practice. Some children with disabilities may act or talk in different ways such as with their hands, pictures, facial expressions, vocalizations, or communication systems. Don't give up. Over time, you will begin to understand one another and it will be easier to play together. The sense of achievement you experience when you accomplish your goal will be well worth your efforts. Your desire to be friends will show PERSEVERANCE and will help you through any difficulties you first experience.
be A Leader
Sometimes children who have disabilities have trouble processing the environment and understand the people around them. Sometimes difficulty communicating or overstimulation may result in behaviors such as tantrums, flapping hands, turning away, hiding, etc. Don't take it personally. They may not be ready to engage in play or respond to your requests quite yet. Show LEADERSHIP and be a good sport by remaining friendly, giving, them some space, and allowing time for them to work it out.
Meeting, including, and playing with new people can be intimidating, especially if initially there are no clear similarities or interests. It takes COURAGE to step outside your comfort zone, but inviting all children to play will feel good, especially when you experience how it makes others feel to be included.
be A Good Citizen
Citizenship is about embracing all members of the community and going out of your way to do nice things for other people. By demonstrating CITIZENSHIP and being a good friend to others, you are setting an excellent example of showing that children of all abilities are valued members of your community and that you believe they can play, make friends, and have fun just like you!