Author: Gina Reed. The benefits of a healthy social life extend deeply into the realms of physical well being, emotional strength, self esteem and mental stimulation. The positive results of an active and balanced social life are difficult to ignore. However, the reality of the time, energy, and even courage that is required for developing a robust social life can be a bit daunting. For families where special needs must be accommodated, it can be even more overwhelming and often requires a conscious effort to find opportunities for engagement. Those opportunities are out there though! A number of resources are readily available to help families identify valuable avenues for building a social life that is rewarding and accessible.
Parents of Special Needs Children Need Time Too
For the parents and siblings of a special needs child, it is not always easy to make the time to develop an individual social life. Many times, 24-hour care is required, limiting the time, energy, and resources for engaging in activities outside of the special needs sphere. While it can be a difficult concept to realize, making time for yourself, for your spouse or partner, and for any other children you may have is vital for the long-term well being of your family.
It is understandable that some disabilities can make getting out and experiencing activities on your own seemingly impossible. Sometimes it is more about acknowledging that it is not only OK to take the time, but it is important that you make it a priority to do so. Talking with other families with special needs in a support group format, online chat group or on more of a one-on-one basis can help you process the emotions you may experience in taking the steps to build your own social life.
Siblings of children with special needs often experience their own challenges in regards to socializing. Opportunities can often be confined to those that fit within the schedule or restrictions of a special needs sibling. Individual time with parents can also be limited. While it is often understood by the members in a family with a special needs child that some accommodations have to be made, it is still important to make a conscious effort to encourage social engagement for all family members.
A Social Life for the Special Needs Individual
Meaningful relationships and enjoyable activities will enhance the quality of life experienced by an individual with special needs. Learning new skills and making new friends can provide a sense of self worth and accomplishment for individuals with special needs. At the same time, these social interactions build a valuable support network that can relieve some of the stress from immediate family members.
For adults with special needs, there are many recreational and social groups that emphasize accessibility, encourage relationships, and provide skill development. For some adults with disabilities, the right equipment can make many new opportunities accessible. A streamlined lightweight, folding wheelchair by Convaid could provide the flexibility and maneuverability to make participation in group activities more comfortable and feasible.
For parents of children with special needs, there are a number of resources available online and through local community organizations that provide ideas for networking with other special needs families. Because some social situations can be intimidating, it is important to prepare your special needs child for positive engagement by taking advantage of today\’s technology. Wheelchairs that are designed to look more like high performance strollers, like the line of Convaid Cruisers can boost confidence and provide increased access to some activities. There are also social skill applications that are available for the iPad or iPhone that can provide your child with an introduction to the social situations they may encounter.
There are many resources available for you to tap into to make that social life possible!
Babysitting or Care Giving Resources for your Special Needs Child:
- Visit Care.com to find local babysitters experienced with special needs children.
- Take advantage of local community education courses for special needs children. These sessions usually enable you to leave your child in the hands of qualified care givers for an hour or two.
- Summer and day camps for special needs children can provide you with a much needed break from full time care giving.
Developing a Social Life for Families with Special Needs- Online resources:
- Parents Helping Parents (PHP.com)
- My Child Without Limits Organization (MyChildWithoutLimits.org)