Every child is different. This is a phrase you have probably heard many times as a parent. In fact, you probably heard it quite a few times when you were a child too. However, if you have a child with special needs, sometimes it can feel like none of the parenting advice applies to your child — and all of the crafts, games, playtime activities, and learning suggestions seem like things that your child just wouldn’t enjoy. However, there are ways that you can stimulate your special needs child. Though these methods will differ on a case-by-case basis, you can rest assured that they are, indeed, there.
Depending on your child’s diagnosis and needs, he or she might overly sensitive. Or naming/discussing senses might be a problem for your child. Regardless, special needs children who have a sensory concern are best served if they receive sensory stimulation at home in a safe environment. In addition, this kind of activity can help parents learn what kind of sensory concerns their children might have. Some of the activities that you could do include the following:
- Offer your child different kinds of materials to touch and feel, such as soft cotton, bumpy corduroy, and rough steel wool. Name the texture as the child touches the material. Note any material that seems to make your child uneasy.
- Practice plugging in different lamps in a dark room to show how more light makes a room brighter and less light makes it darker. Determine which brightness/darkness your child prefers.
Special needs children may find it difficult to express their emotions or to understand the emotions that others around them are feeling. In some children with forms of autism, for example, picking up on facial expressions is difficult. The following activities will help children understand and express emotions:
- Show your child a card or painting with a face. Ask the child to describe the emotion that is being shown.
- Give your child a poster of different faces with the word of the emotion they are feeling under it — this only works for older children who have a high reading level.
- Show your child a movie where a person is expressing an emotion and talk about that emotion with your child.
Fine Motor Skills
Some special needs children have difficulty completing tasks that require fine motor skills. Parents can encourage their children to develop these skills through the following stimulating games and activities:
- Draw or paint on paper or use chalk on sidewalks or a bath crayon in the tub. Drawing and painting encourages fine motor movement.
- Have children make bracelets or necklaces by stringing beads.
- Show children how to make shadow puppets and help them to create their own.
Although much of the parenting information about how to stimulate children leaves out children with special needs, there are many ways that parents of children with special needs can stimulate them, helping them to develop the skills necessary to succeed in the work or education world or simply to improve themselves.
While the above suggestions may work well with some special needs children at certain ages, knowing how to engage your special needs child requires a plan put together by your child’s physician and mental health professional. It may also require the work of physical therapists. Luckily, health insurance for children with special needs typically covers many of these costs.
Author Bio: Jessica is a mother of a child with special needs and works for a car insurance company that handles disabled car insurance for families.