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Saturday 20 Sep 2014

Playdates for Kids with Autism and Other Special Needs


The best way for our children to learn social interaction skills is to teach them those skills in a natural setting. This “natural setting” for many kids comes in the form of playdates. The idea of coordinating and facilitating playdates can be frightening for parents of children with autism. Will the other child want to play with my child? Will my child engage in aggressive or avoidant behaviors? What will the other parent think of my child? Will the other parent want to bring their child back? These, and many other, questions can come tumbling through a parent’s head when thinking about setting up a playdate and it many times leads to them giving up before they begin. This is where Jane Hsu, founder of Special Playdate, steps in.

Jane is a special education teacher in New York and she saw this hesitation or difficulty setting up playdates as a pervasive problem with the families of her students. She noticed that many of her students were beginning to develop friendships and engage in social interactions in school, but these friendships and interactions ended once the children left school. Because of this, Jane decided to start a service for families of children with special needs to help them connect with others outside of school so they could meet others in their situation, form connections and ultimately help their children form friendships outside of the school walls. These connections begin online and allow parents to get to know each other before setting up an in-person interaction. This method of connecting allows parents to ease into these relationships so they can feel comfortable and confident about setting up playdates and facilitating social interactions with their children. Here is a little more about Special Playdate and found Jane Hsu (from www.specialplaydate.com):

“Special Playdate was founded on one simple premise: that every child deserves a friend. As a special education teacher working in New York City’s public schools, I saw first-hand the challenges that many of my students and their parents faced when trying to establish friendships. My goal was to create a safe and easy way for families and others to connect online. The result was Special Playdate. Our expert clinicians also strive to offer you ongoing benefits; from weekly playdate tips to ongoing workshops and social skills-building programs. We invite you to come visit our website and consider becoming a member. Let Special Playdate be that first step towards creating a lasting friendship for your child.

Jane Hsu, a NYU graduate alumna in Special Education and a 5th year Special Education teacher at the New York City Public Schools, recognized that families of children with special needs needed a safe and simple way to enjoy and support their child’s development in an informal, natural setting. Finding no good existing solutions to this problem, Jane decided in 2008 to save up her money to develop a resource providing the first ever playdate matching service for children with special needs all over the nation. Membership is free, and benefits can last a lifetime!”