Helping Others Understand

Published Aug. 1, 2012

(The following is an exerpt from "Parenting Children with Special Needs" by Stacey Schultz (

How can parents achieve better understanding and communication with parents of children with special needs - and with the kids themselves? How can they help their own children do the same?

Susan Atkins' solution was to get involved with her daughter's school. Each year, she introduced Alexa's classmates to an "All About Me" book Atkins created. The book included pictures of Alexa as a baby and activities Alexa liked to do. Atkins also talked to her daughter's classmates about Alexa's Down Syndrome.

At the end of the talk, she'd ask if anyone would like to be in Alexa's "Circle of Friends." That meant the kids would eat lunch with Alexa and a teacher once a week and share pizza once a month. "They had an opportunity to get to know Alexa on a different level than just being in the classroom," Atkins says. "It was always amazing how many kids raised their hand."

Atkins says the Circle of Friends led to birthday party and playdate invitations for Alexa. "I got to know some of their parents well and still know them," she says.