As They Grow: Friends with Special Needs

Pediatric Interactions is an LLC partner.  This post is part of their partnership with Little Lake County. Written by Clinical Director and Speech-Language Pathologist, Sarah Rosten; all thoughts and opinions belong to her.   

picky eaters vs problem feeders

Kids are back at school, they are learning new skills and meeting new friends. Sometimes this is the first time a child has been introduced to a child with special needs.

Photo Source: Pediatric Interactions
Photo Source: Pediatric Interactions

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, so this is the perfect time to broach the topic with your children. Children with disabilities may look different due to physical traits associated with their diagnosis. They may have special accommodations due to health conditions. Or they may have cognitive delays. As parents, how can you explain some of this to your child?

Here are some tips on teaching your child about their new friends and classmates with special needs:

  1. Don’t avoid your child’s curiosity. You can make a comment like, “I saw that person helping that kid walk, he may have a disability which makes it hard for him.”
  2. Teach your child how to help and interact with the other child. Just because a child may not talk as easily, doesn’t mean that he/she doesn’t have something to say. Sometimes, you have to be creative in communicating and be patient with each other.
  3. Model sensitivity and don’t allow jokes or bullying. Parents should avoid using derogatory terms about anyone else. Teach your child it’s ok to tell a teacher or adult if other kids are making fun of another child. Your child should treat the other child like any other friend.
  4. Point out attributes that the children share. No two people are alike and just because a child has a disability, he/she is still a kid! What similarities does your child have with their friend?
Down Syndrome Awareness Month October Pediatric Interactions
Photo Source: Pediatric Interactions

Further Reading With Your Child
There are many books that have been published featuring photographs or illustrations of children with Down Syndrome.

Children with Autism often engage in repetitive activities. This may appear strange to other children. These stories reframe these actions as assets.

Some children at school may use a wheelchair or a walker.   These stories help children talk about these differences.

Growing up and dealing with many challenges, with or without special needs, is hard for children. The story Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas helps children empathize with some of the emotional issues experienced by kids with special needs.

Photo Source: Pediatric Interactions
Photo Source: Pediatric Interactions

You can find additional resources  at  Pediatric Interactions includes siblings and peers in many of our sessions. If your child would like to be a “peer partner” and meet children who may have disabilities or communicate differently than they do, please contact us at: sarahr[at]pediatricinteractions[dot]com

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Pediatric Interactions and WeeBits invite you to participate in the following programs.

Pediatric Interactions WeeBits
Photo Source: WeeBits on Facebook

Singing and Signing Class:
Singing and Signing to Encourage Communication and Socialization. Suggested age: 6 months to 3 years old, with a grown-up. Facilitated by a speech-language pathologist and handouts will be provided.

  • Fridays, October 16-November 6, Mrs. Jill, 9:30 a.m.-10:15 a.m.  Grayslake $40
  • Saturdays, October 24 – November 14, Ms. Brittany, 10:15 a.m.-11:00 a.m. McHenry (United Way) $40

Happiest Baby on the Block Group Class:
Expecting or new parents will learn the “5-S’s” (Swaddling, Side/stomach position, Swinging, Shushing, Sucking) and receive materials to take home (The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, “Super-Soothing” Sleep Sounds CD, Sneak peek of The Happiest Toddler DVD).

  • Saturday November 7, 2015 from 10:30 am – 12:30 pm, Grayslake

Thank you to Therapeutic Links for sponsoring this FREE Workshop!

Photo Source: WeeBits on Facebook
Photo Source: WeeBits on Facebook

In collaboration with Circus Kazoo and Monkey Aerial Arts, WeeCircus provides a fun movement based class focusing on simple tumbling, large motor, fine motor, and social skill development. Suggested age: Walking independently to 3 years old with a grown up. Classes will be held at Movement Arts Space, 100 S Atkinson Rd., Suite 102, Grayslake.

  • Fall (2) Fridays, October 23 – November 13, 10:00am – 10:45am $40


Infant Massage:
Caregiver will learn techniques to enhance infant’s growth/development, stimulate learning, relaxation for sleep and self-calming, relief of common ailments, and interactions that promote bonding and attachment. Suggested age: 0-8 month old infants (or not crawling yet) is ideal. Class will be at The Goddard School 34638 US-45,  Third Lake.

  • Saturdays, October 17 – November 7; Mrs. Lindsey, 9:30am-10:15am

Thank you to The Goddard School of Third Lake for sponsoring this FREE class!


For more information on any of these programs, please visit WeeBits online , email info[at]weebitsforfamilies[dot]org or call (224) 360-2542

Pediatric Interactions is a Speech and Language Clinic located in Grayslake and McHenry that supports independence and self-esteem using creative therapy approaches. Pediatric Interventions provides FREE developmental screenings, individual and group therapy, classes, workshops and other resources to help children better communicate.

WeeBits is a non-profit organization bringing awareness and guidance to those families with infants/toddlers who fall outside the boundaries of existing child developmental programs. 


About Loralie 216 Articles
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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