Seven (7) ways you can help special needs kids while blessing your own children

by Joanne Bastante-Howard

Over the years children with Down syndrome and other special needs have been short-changed, overlooked and labeled. While no one can deny that there has been progress with early intervention, special education and medical advances, we still have a long way to go.

Do you remember the adorable young boy with blonde hair and blue eyes featured in Target and Nordstrom ads? I was so excited to see my son’s schoolmate with Down syndrome featured in those stylish clothing ads.

This morning a young man with special needs achieved four of five three-pointers during a basketball game in Pennsylvania! That’s something that doesn’t happen everyday.

Even Hollywood appears to be getting in on the action by looking for more actors with Down syndrome to play pivotal roles like Lauren Potter who stars in Glee. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see other films to be released. Wouldn’t you like to see more kids with a wide range of challenges on the wide screen?

Actors with Down syndrome, as well as other conditions, help audiences understand more about the condition and also help to portray a more realistic society.

Mom always said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!”

Whether a child has Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, ADHD, bipolar disorder, congenital heart disease or any other condition, he or she has a lot to offer.

If you look at their sweet faces you would never know how many of them have endured multiple heart surgeries, cancer, gastrointestinal challenges, respiratory complications, thyroid disease, diabetes and much more. They truly are American heroes, don’t you agree?

These inspiring kids deserve our admiration and unfailing respect. Through all the pain and struggles, they still continue to smile and bravely forge ahead while so many of us complain about mundane things like snow storms in New Jersey.

Seven ways you can help America’s little heroes!

If you are a parent, you have an incredible opportunity to make a difference in your child’s life and in the life a child with special needs. Here are suggestions that you can easily accomplish. They will enrich your child’s life and prepare him or her to address any challenge with courage!

1. Talk to your kids about Special Needs—It is always a good idea to share anecdotes about children and adults with disabilities who have inspired you. One of my favorites is Helen Keller; despite being blind, Helen Keller was an American author, political activist and lecturer. Ask your child if he or she has students in class that have Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, etc. Ask open-ended questions and offer suggestions on how your child can help this classmate.

2. Invite children with special needs to a play date—You would be surprised how many parents have never stopped to consider inviting another family to join them to the park, movies or a sporting event. In fact, some of our kids aren’t even invited to birthday parties. Inviting a child to your activity blesses him or her and is a life-changing experience for your child. Your child learns how to be compassionate and patient. It’s a win/win for everyone.

3. Invite a mom who has a special needs child out for coffee or a bite to eat—Many of us feel so isolated from the rest of the world, especially single moms. If you are going out with friends or have some time for a one-on-one, consider encouraging another mom to join you. I promise you will be blessed for taking the time.

4. Make a warm meal or dessert for someone who has a child in the hospital—When a child is in and out of the hospital for treatments and/or surgery, there is nothing better than a hot meal or a treat waiting. Any gesture, no matter how large or small, is always greatly appreciated.

5. Volunteer to watch a special needs child to give a family some respite—Sometimes a mom just needs an hour to gets some rest, go to the store or take a shower. There are times that a couple desperately needs a date night. Why not invite a special child to your house one afternoon or evening to give his or her parents time alone?

6. Encourage your child to volunteer his or her time at a local non-profit that helps children with disabilities—America’s Special Kidz (A.S.K.) is always interested in training kids. We will feature your child in our print publication. We will also teach your child life-lessons that are invaluable.

7. Encourage your child to raise money over time to help local kids with disabilities—A.S.K. features all kids who take the time to do this. We want to teach all kids the importance of helping those who are vulnerable.

Do you have any other suggestions? Share your ideas. I would love to hear from you.

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