What is the initial emotional response when you see a child living with a disability? Do you feel sympathy? Do you feel disgusted? Do you immediately blame the parents? Or you are unconcerned? Whatever your response, these children are different because they require special needs. The following are hints to understanding and relating with such children:
- Introduce yourself: Meeting someone for the first time can be somewhat awkward let alone meeting a special needs person. When you do, it is required for you to politely introduce yourself to them by gently taking their hands or placing your hand warmly on their shoulder. In a case where the child resists your touch, do not take offence, but gently smile to reassure them that you mean no harm.
- Be observant: Non-verbal communication is key when relating with special needs children. Because they are very sensitive, you should take note of their non-verbal cues before taking any step. If you do not understand what they mean, simply ask their parents or care taker.
- Be cheerful: Exude a demeanor that says ‘I want to be your friend’ and not ‘I have pity for you’. Let your body language communicate genuine interaction. If that is not your intention, avoid making contact.
- Be considerate: Patience is a necessary virtue when interacting with special children. Do not rush them. Take your time when speaking to them and especially when waiting to get a response.
Remember, there are no hard and fast rules in creating a rapport with special children, but these are practical tips to guide you in building a relationship with them.