While building a quality social circle for your special needs toddler may not strike you as being as high of a priority as building your own circle of friends is, it is still important that your child is able to make friends in a safe, open environment. In the toddler years, you can help your child build skills that he can use for the rest of his life by giving him tips for getting along with friends his own age and for putting him in situations where he is empowered to create healthy relationships.
Many toddlers are innately afraid of new social settings. They long to spend all of their time with mom or dad who makes them feel brave, confident, and smart. As a parent, you can help your child branch out and make friendships outside the home by providing him with the right opportunities in the next few months.
First, do not stress over the small problems that are often a part of a new social circle. At first, your child may look quite awkward as he does not know what to do or where he fits into this circle. Parallel play is huge at this age, and your child may struggle to play alongside other children. However, imitation is a great first step that you can encourage in your child.
Second, it will be up to you at this stage to create the right playdates for your special needs child. As you set up playdates, try to keep them in neutral territories, such as at the park at which your child is already comfortable.
Third, plan playdates with new people and in new places at a time of day that will be best for your child. A tired, hungry, or cranky toddler is not going to be open to new opportunities. In addition, try to keep new playdates to approximately 30 minutes to enhance your child’s emotional resiliency.