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How to Host Special-needs Friends

Lewis's son, Beck, has been in school with children with special needs since he was a baby. "He just accepts it," the Signal Mountain, TN, mom says. So she wasn't surprised when her 6-year-old invited over a classmate who has Down syndrome; she just wanted both boys to enjoy themselves. If you find yourself hosting a kid with different abilities, do as she did:  

Stick to the basics

When your child asks about her friend's condition, offer simple, no-big-deal explanations: "Riley was born deaf, and her cochlear implants help her hear," or "Nick's brain works differently than yours, so he takes longer to finish the puzzle."  

Check in with the parents

Ask for contact information and a list of do's and don'ts; most parents will appreciate that you want to make your home safe and inviting for the playdate. "I learned that sometimes Beck's friend can get overwhelmed when things get too noisy," Lewis says. "So we borrowed some of his favorite Elmo tapes to help comfort him."   

Then stand back

A kid with special needs wants to be independent, too, so let her attempt things on her own instead of immediately jumping to her aid.