I had a parent come to me at the beginning of the year. She asked me what she could do to support the classroom. I could tell she could be my “go-to parent.” She was organized, involved, and attentive. For a moment, possibilities raced through my head: field trip coordinator, parent volunteer organizer, phone tree head . . . the possibilities were endless!
Then, on a total whim, I changed my mind.
“The most helpful thing you can do to support me in the classroom is to plan lots of play dates for your son.” Her son had special needs in the classroom. I had already seen a few social issues rear their heads since school started.
For kids, especially one with special needs, play is the primary way their intellectual, social and emotional selves develop.
Over the year this young boy grew into a totally different kid. His demeanor changed, his sense of humor developed. It was amazing to se him growing in so many different ways.
The mother was singing my praises, calling me a miracle worker. I knew I wasn’t the one who deserved the credit. I knew where all these changes were coming from: her son had more time to play in authentic ways.
I can’t stress enough how important play is for kids with special needs, or behavioral problems in the classroom.
Here’s a paradigm shift. For every call home you get from a teacher, outburst you see at home, or times that little voice in your head asks, “Is my child normal?” plan two to three play dates.
You’ll see changes in no time.
P.S. A playdate with video games doesn’t count!!
Melissa Spiegelman is the founder of Tandem Teaching. She is currently working as an expert consultant to the USC/LAUSD/RAND/UCLA Trauma Services Adaptation Center for Resilience, Hope and Wellness in Schools. She also provides consultations to families who are seeking support as they navigate the school system, offering parents quick tips they can implement to enhance their connection with their children, as well as ways to bring out their children’s inherent gifts. Contact her for a private consulting session.