Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Playdates for Children with Special Needs

On September 27th, the New York Metro chapter of the National Autism Association organized a talk for parents on Special Playdate, an online service founded by Jane Hsu, and how to successfully develop playdates for your special needs child. Ms. Hsu, who holds a Master’s degree in Special Education from New York University, recognized a gap in services that made it easier for parents of children with special needs to organize playdates and decided to utilize the Internet as a networking tool. Special Playdate was founded on the belief that every child needs friends and that, with the right preparation and facilitation, successful playdates can help children with special needs make friends.

The first step in using the service is to create a profile about your child that will be used to match him or her with other children in the area. Parents can create a free profile on www.SpecialPlaydate.com and at no cost can have Special Playdate’s website make potential matches for your child. Within New York City, either the website can make your “matches” or you can retain Ms. Hsu or one of the trained therapists on her team to help match children based on their strengths, limitations and interests, among other parameters. A member of the Special Playdate team can also help prepare your child for meeting his or her new friend and facilitate during the actual playdate to ensure the greatest chance of success. In New York alone, an estimated 1000 profiles have been created for children ranging in age from 3 years to 16 years. The website also has a special area devoted to siblings of children with special needs.

During the presentation, Jane shared tips on how to plan and facilitate a playdate, how to make contact with a new parent and how to prepare your own child. She recognizes that things that come naturally to typically developing children require planning, explanation, and facilitation to many children with special needs and has tips to make a playdate successful. One point she stressed repeatedly was that parents need to be honest with each other so that each parent has realistic expectations of the playdate and of what each considers a successful playdate. She answered parents questions in a lively Q&A session.

For more information, go to www.SpecialPlaydate.com or e-mail info@specialplaydate.com

(pictured: Jane Hsu of Special Playdate and NAA NY Metro Programming Committee Member Janice Bloch Roth)

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