The old Airtel jingle ‘Har ek dost zaroori hota hai’ (meaning every friend is important), very aptly puts the importance of friends in our lives. Friendship is a basic need of humans and no other relationship can fully substitute the need for friends in our lives. As adults we all love to reminisce the time spent with school/ college friends. Even as we grow up and get busy with work and family, we so look forward to an evening spent with friends.
Friends, specially occupy a very integral part of children’s formative years. Birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates are not just source of immense joy for children but also provide valuable life lessons to them.
Unfortunately, children with disabilities get left out from these simple joys of life. Differently abled children generally find it very difficult to make friends. While these children may be different in appearance and behaviour, their need / desire for friendship is no different.
Why do Special Needs children have no regular friends? One simple reason is that they are Different, which makes it difficult for them to get absorbed in the mainstream playground. They may be physically challenged making it difficult for them to walk/run. They may have difficulty in communication/ they may find it difficult to understand the rules of the games/ they may not be apt at social norms. The differences make these children conscious and lacking in confidence which further accentuates their weakness.
The so called regular children in the playground also do not know how to interact with special needs children. They already have lot of friends and hence they may not have the patience or inclination to take an extra step to make that special friend. Sometimes they come under peer pressure. They are embarrassed to be seen with a child who is different from all others. This is where we as adults are found lacking. We do not make the effort to sensitize our children about special needs. We do not expose them to this diversity. We have not told them that there are some children who are different from them and it is perfectly ok.
Why is this friendship between regular children and special needs children important? First and foremost, acceptability by the peer group will make the special needs children happy. Further, this friendship will accelerate their learning and go a long way in boosting their confidence. They will learn societal norms making it easier for them to get absorbed in the mainstream society.
This special friendship also has a lot to offer to regular children. These children will learn to accept people who are different from them. This is a very important learning which will help them as adults in their work and personal lives. In today’s corporate world there is lot of focus on diversity, be it in the form of geography, culture or gender. Hence it will help if since childhood we are exposed to diversity in different forms.
Through this friendship the children will learn to acknowledge their blessings. They will learn that many of the things that they take for granted like walking, talking, writing is a big challenge for some other children. Even adults have a lot to learn on this aspect. We spend a big part of our life striving for things that we don’t have and take for granted the simple blessings of life.
Empathy and caring attitude are the other big learnings. We try to groom our children to be successful in their lives. We equip them with best of academics and extra-curricular activities. But let’s not forget to sensitize them to the softer aspects of life. This will help in their all-round development. Even the corporate mantra says that empathy is a necessary requirement for a leader.
So next time you see a lonely special child in the playground, encourage your child to be his/ her friend. Remember, Har Ek dost Zaroori Hota Hai (Every friend is important). Your child will definitely have something to learn from this experience. Moreover, let’s not make life so materialistic and quid pro quo. Sometimes let’s just do things to spread happiness around us. Learn to celebrate differences and not fight over it.
Picture Credit: The Fresh Quotes