Staying connected to the real world can be hard for parents of kids with special needs. These 5 strategies use every day events to foster connections.

In the last four weeks, our family was hit by a series of health whammies. My husband’s hip replacement surgery was expected, but the others–Mom’s accelerated decline, painful back and neck issues for me, and the virus hitting my daughter and her kids–were not.

I was tempted to lay in bed and binge watch my favorite television show, Parks and Recreation, even after my back and neck recovered. Thanks to my parents, I knew the importance of keeping a family connected to the real world, even while battling health issues. Their involvement in the community, even after multiple sclerosis robbed Dad of his ability to walk when I was a child, is a powerful model of how to stay engaged when it’s easier to stay home and stare at screens all day. Maybe the strategies they taught me will help you and your child with special needs stay connected to the real world, too.

Strategy #1: Sit Outside

Engagement doesn’t get much easier than this. Sit on your porch, in the driveway (my dad’s preferred option), or on the front step. Wave to people walking or driving by. Invite neighbors to come over for a chat.

Strategy #2: Go Shopping

Since shopping has to be done, think of it as an opportunity to connect your child with the outside world. It takes extra work. I remember Mom putting Dad’s wheelchair in the trunk, hauling it out downtown, and putting it back in the trunk when the shopping was done. But I also remember how people said hello and stopped to chat. That wouldn’t have happened without the extra effort required.

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