Preparing a child for a new baby can have some challenges, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that preparing a special needs child for a new baby has some additional ones. Your child may have limited communication and cognitive skills and it might be difficult to gauge how much they understand and what their reaction to a new sibling will be. Whilst having a new baby in the home is wonderful, it without a doubt changes the family dynamic and routines. However, there are lots of things that you can do in the lead up to your new arrival in order to try and help them prepare for their little brother or sister.
Here’s 6 ways to prepare your special needs child for the arrival of a new baby
Social stories can be a fantastic tool in helping children with special needs to understand scenarios and outcomes. You could create your own social story or a simple Google search will provide you with lots of examples. The social story could start with a simple explanation that there is a baby in your tummy which is growing. It could show your child that the baby will be small, that it will sleep in a cot, that it may cry and that it will drink milk. It could also be used to remind your child that you will continue to care and love them as well as the new baby. You could use PECS symbols or your own photographs.
There are lots of story books available to explain to children the concept of pregnancy and what to expect when a new baby arrives. Books that explain in a simple way like ‘The New Baby’ by Anna Cirvardi are great.
Similarly, there are TV shows that have been created to help children prepare for a new sibling. Some are easy to find on YouTube, such as ‘I’m a new big sister’, by Toddler Fun Learning.
Some children will love a baby doll of their own and this can help them to prepare for a baby being in the house. If your child likes role play, you can pretend to change the baby, dress it, feed it and put it to bed. You can remind the child that they need to be gentle with a baby and praise their sibling skills before the baby has even arrived.
A new baby can mean new gadgets in the house and a new bedroom and furniture. If possible, make sure that your child has time to adjust to this before the new baby arrives. Perhaps they can help you to choose a colour scheme or pick out some outfits for their sibling.
Your child might be quite demanding and your new baby will be too. Trying to be prepared for this before your baby is born is important. Make sure that you arrange one to one time with your child when your new baby arrives and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you think that you will need the help of family or friends, ask them if they will come around and spend some time with your child before the baby arrives so that they are used to their company. This will ensure that your child has one less thing to adjust to.
It may not always be possible, but trying to stick to established routines, particularly for children with autism is beneficial so that they feel safe and reassured.
It’s important to remember that it might take time for your child to adjust to having a new baby in the house, particularly if they have been used to being an only child and having your undivided attention. A new baby is a huge change and one that involves a lot of feelings. Make sure that you listen to your child, however they may communicate and reassure them in every way.
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Swimming is a fantastic inclusive activity to do with children with special needs. It’s a great sensory experience that is good fun and has positive benefits for both physical and mental health. It is also an activity that can be done all year round and doesn’t have to be weather dependent (depending on where you choose to swim!).