Love and friendship are the greatest gifts we can ever give someone. Little bits of our hearts, talent and care physically manifested into these acts.
When we found out that our son has autism, I wondered if he would ever be able to experience and fathom the depths of these profound experiences. I now know that he does, just not always in a way I or others may relate to.Regardless of where children with autism fall on the spectrum, they do want their most basic human need fulfilled in some capacity; they want to be shown love and understanding.
Here’s how you and yours can show support to our friends on the spectrum on Valentine’s Day:1. Most classes suggest that everyone brings a card for every student but what many miss is that children with special needs may not be able to read them quite yet or may get confused by the picture. Sometimes a dinosaur in a truck holding a heart can be a little outlandish for our more literal guys and gals. Sitting down next to them, reading it and exploring it with them can help them understand what is going on around them and experience the day as it is meant to be experienced.2. If they are non-verbal or prefer quiet, sitting next to them and holding space can be a great way to show support. Even if they are overwhelmed, hanging out beside them or quietly reading your Valentine’s Day message to them is thoughtful and appreciated.3. If you see the parents of a child with special needs, give them some encouragement or share a story (if you have one) of their child. Remember, that we are often times asked to hand over our most precious gifts and get little to no communication regarding their social lives. So, hearing a story about how your child played with ours or how ours made you laugh can change our days right around.4. Playing a game that they want to play and how they want to play it. A lot of the times, there are games at classroom parties. Sometimes children on the spectrum can, unintentionally, get left out of games because they may have a harder time understanding higher functioning rules. Let them choose the game and its rules for a bit. Sometimes what’s going on in their minds can surprise you. And, your child may find some common ground to help foster the friendship later on.
Children with special needs have a place in our hearts and on our minds.As parents, we try and walk before them and absorb some of the cruel aspects of the world. But, friendships are hard and out of our control.Classmates taking time to meet them, learn about how they learn and engage them is taking the first leap into putting more love, understanding and acceptance into their environment.
Photography: Lindsay Herkert Photography