Interpersonal skills are just as important as a persons’ intellectual skills at every age and level of development. It just so happens, it can also be one of the most challenging for those diagnosed with down syndrome. The goal is for children with disabilities to lead as normal of a life as possible where they are able to interact with the community, develop friendships and participate in extracurricular activities.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, there are a few key things to remember when ensuring your kiddos are as involved and comfortable in the community as possible. One of the most important elements of social inclusion is the forming and maintaining of friendships. In these cases, it may be helpful to send a letter to the parents of the children in class. Often times, people without exposure to down syndrome do not know how to interact with those who have it. This will help the parents to know how to explain the differences to their children, leading to stronger friendships.
Another important element of social inclusion is to ensure that your child is involved in as many social activities as possible, even if it’s challenging. There may be activities that are offered that take a bit more time or even prove to be more challenging for children with down syndrome. That being said, it is important to challenge your kiddos to stick with it. This will allow them to see that they are just as capable as everyone else.
In order for children to build and maintain relationships with other children, family members and teachers, they need to have clear expectations in regards to their behavior. In some cases, children with down syndrome can push the boundaries when it comes to those expectations. The key is to continue to set them as you would for a child without disabilities. Often times parents have a difficult time knowing what expectations to set for their children because they worry they are expecting too much. However, children with down syndrome are completely capable of being given a set of guidelines for behavior and following them. Rewarding and encouraging the meeting of these guidelines is key.
Social development is often influenced by the world around us. As parents, it is important to help our children learn how to best involve themselves in the world. For children with down syndrome, it will not always be easy. There will be moments of defeat and frustration, but the most important thing is to continue reminding them that they have the ability to achieve anything a child without disabilities can achieve. From time to time, we may even need to remind the world of this, too.