Tips For Play Dates for Special Needs Children
One topic we’ve never really addressed before is playdates. Many of our parents really like to have those times where our kids get together with other kids for playdates. Many kids who do not have sensory or developmental issues, and are developing typically have playdates all the time. It’s a very common thing, and it’s fun for the parents to socialize while the kids are playing, especially during the summer!
But playdates are a mixed bag and you should evaluate them very carefully based on your kiddo. If you’re here in speech therapy, your therapist (and your occupational therapist too) is going to have some excellent ideas for how you might manage playdates. I’m going to speak in generalities here because each child is different, each family is different, and each family culture is different.
Try Limiting The Time
Typically, for our clients who are on the autism spectrum, socialization is a big challenge. For playdates for these children, you might look at limiting the amount of time—you might not want to go on a three-hour playdate. Socialization is work for many kids on the spectrum, so it’s important to consider that. It may be a great outlet for you, and you may have a great time, but it may be a challenge for your kiddo.
Choose The Activity Wisely
Also, look for an activity that is highly preferred. If we’re going to ask our friends on the spectrum to do a social activity, they will do better if it’s in a preferred environment. I would also make it an environment that is not overwhelming in terms of sensory input.
Consider having the playdate in the safety of your own home. That’s a familiar place and it doesn’t require as many unfamiliar transitions. You might also consider a place that your kiddo has gone a lot, and that they’re very familiar with and seem to enjoy.
Choosing a Playmate
On the other hand, many of our other kiddos really enjoy socialization! In this case, playdates are an excellent thing! Still, I want you to think about having your playdates with someone who is going to be developmentally equal. When we do our camps here we pair kids developmentally, because kids at similar stages of development are going to get along better. Even if a child is a certain age, that doesn’t mean that they’re at that age developmentally. Do take this into consideration!
These are just a few of the things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about playdates. Evaluate the situation and your child, and talk to your clinician. A playdate may be a great thing, or it might be something you only want to do on a limited basis.