Want Company?

Do you know someone with a special needs child? Do they come visit very often? Chances are the answer is no. As parents of a special needs child we know all too well how challenging it is for our son to follow all “our house rules” let alone those at someone elses house.  When Matthew was younger we rarely visited people unless they were very familiar with our needs. Even going to family’s homes could be traumatic.

When Matthew was young we visited my sister. Normally this was a pretty safe bet as she and her husband were good about helping monitor our then hyperactive child. This trip though he zipped into the other room and before I could react had opened the new inherited Grandfather clock causing it to tip over with a crash. Fortunately, he was not squashed and the clock was repairable. Trust me though, I wished we could dissolve into the floor at that moment… It served as a strong reminder that other’s homes were not usually Matthew proof.

He doesn’t look like trouble…

We were reminded of younger days recently when a friend came by with her challenging child. This young person often acts rashly and as a result doesn’t get to practice appropriate behavior. It’s tough to be the parent.

The sad part is that the only way our special needs children can learn to behave appropriately is if offered opportunity. Fortunately we have family and friends who actually would invite us over. And over time Matthew learned what he could or couldn’t get into.

Maybe you know someone with a special needs child and would like to help. You would be a blessing but there are some things you should know.  There’s often little privacy–our kids may look in the medicine cabinets, refrigerator, laundry room, at your magazines, etc. They may want to touch everything. If they decide they are hungry they may just go into the frig or cupboard and look for a snack. If the parent comes to visit with more than one child you can expect that the kids will go in two different directions and you might have to help a bit.

If you invite your friend over try to be understanding if the child’s needs suddenly jump and the parent has to leave. We parents don’t like our children to misbehave or do foolish things. A five minute visit might be all the child can manage for the first few (or even many visits).  Preparing for a visit is much like when a friend brings a young child–if you know the child likes to touch things and you have a favorite collection it might be easiest to sit in a different area or close the door to the room. Grandmas are used to putting up fragile items. If the child likes to watch television maybe a planned visit when his favorite show is on or invite him to bring a video. With Matthew it won’t keep his attention–too much else to look at when at someone’s house but it often serves as a good redirect. If you want to serve food it’s a good idea to ask ahead of time if the child has any dietary restrictions. There is nothing worse than accidentally offering a goody only to find that the child has a food intollerance to it. Taking the food away once given still causes a meltdown with Matthew.

After lots of practice, patience and time we are now able to visit many friends. It’s good for us.  It’s good for Matthew.  And I think it’s even good for the friends.

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One thought on “Want Company?

  1. What a great, helpful post for people who do not understand the things about our little ones that can be awkward. I can just feel your pain about the grandfather clock!! You must have a very supportive and loving sister to be understanding about the whole thing. My son always heads to Grandpa's grandfather clock but my dad always heads him off at the pass! I'm glad that, with practice, you are able to visit many people and agree it is very healthy! He is a little dolly!

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