Welcome to the Sign Of The Week.

Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely Christmas holiday.

I always find the start of a new year so exciting. This year is even more special as it’s the start of a new decade too!

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to keep promoting the value of inclusion in our society. I have met so many wonderful teachers and educators who are committed to including students with special needs in their schools – filling me with hope for the future.

The first sign that I have picked for this New Year is FRIEND. Children are going back to school next Monday and they will be excited to meet their school friends again.

Did you know that loneliness and isolation is one of the biggest issues for people with disabilities? We can all experience loneliness throughout our lives – but having a disability of any kind means that you are more likely to become chronically lonely.

As educators and families, we can help to combat loneliness by supporting children to develop positive relationships with their family members and school friends from an early age.

Children with special needs benefit from having an adult to support them to engage and interact with other children. I often suggest that teachers set up structured activities to help children to play together. For example, take a group of 2 or 3 students and help them to take turns to build a tower. Or help a small group of children to prepare a tea party. Initially, the adult can lead and guide the whole activity, but gradually the adult can step back and encourage more spontaneous interactions between the children. Also, it is important to see if there are any natural interactions or friendships developing, and if so, create opportunities for those friendships to grow.

Last year, one of my students with Down syndrome liked to play in the preschool garden with a girl from another class. The two girls were really fond of each other but only saw each other during the break. Their teachers spotted the friendship and decided to allow more flexibility. They began to mix the two classes more often allowing the girls to spend more time together and their friendship continued to blossom.

My own son Sebastian has a good friend who doesn’t have special needs, the little boy used to be a neighbour of ours. It is lovely to see that the little boy likes Sebastian for who he is, and they genuinely enjoy spending time together.

Developing friendships is a real challenge for people with disabilities, and we need to support children to help them to interact and bond with others from a young age.

Over the years I have noticed that when children are more included in the classroom, they tend to be more involved in activities outside the class, such as birthday parties or playdates.

Friendships are so important to all of us… So the sign for next week is FRIEND.

What other signs would you like to learn?
Let me know and I will incorporate them into the Sign of The Week.

Let?s #spreadthel?mh this season.

Enjoy the video, and Happy New Year!

Wishing you the best going back to school next week.

Sign Of The Week – FRIEND