Living in a small town makes it pretty difficult to find things to actually do with kids, so play dates are usually the go-to for entertainment.
While Cooper is a very sociable child who never meets a stranger, it can be hard for other children and him to understand each other at times, especially for children who haven't been previously exposed to kids with special needs.
Still, I think play dates with other children are very important to Cooper's development, especially since he's an only child (at least until August), so I try to ensure he gets as much time with other children as possible.
While his older cousins feel a need to be protective to Cooper, his cousins that are the same age or younger sometimes still find it hard to understand why Cooper is so different than they are.
I've shared the story before of how his younger cousin, Drew, asked why Cooper was “dumber” than he and why he talked funny, and while thinking about that day still makes me a little sad, it sparked a conversation that needed to be had between Coop's dad, myself, and the rest of our family.
Thanks to those conversations, Cooper's cousins are much more sensitive to his needs, even if they don't quite understand them.
I've noticed in the short visits I've made to the school that many of Cooper's classmates, especially those who were in his pre-kindergarten class, also feel a sense of protection toward him.
If Cooper becomes upset, he can count on a little girl named Annabelle and a boy named Hayden to rush to his side.
While most of his classmates at least accept that Cooper is different, there's a few that still don't understand why he sometimes receives extra attention, or why he sits in a desk while the rest sit at tables.
I've come to realize that just as Cooper doesn't always understand what we are saying to him, other children don't always understand why he doesn't listen to them, which can lead to frustration, which sometimes leads to squabbles between Cooper and the other children.
In an attempt to combat potential fights, I usually begin play dates by explaining Cooper's delays to both the parents and the child.
I've learned the hard way that adults can be just as ignorant about special needs as children, which is why I believe educating everyone in our lives about Cooper's needs is key to developing relationships undivided by misunderstanding.
Teaching parents about Cooper enables them to talk with their kids on a more personal level about not only Cooper's needs, but about all children and people with special needs.
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