How do you decide when to intervene in playground squabbles? via

Special Needs Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting: When Do You Get Involved?

It’s time for a little advocating for those in the trenches of special needs parenting. But first, a story.

Once upon a time there was a child. This fifth grader enjoyed playing at the pool with other children. One day a first grader decided to follow him around the pool. Nothing wrong with that, just a younger child wanting to play with an older child.

But the older child asked him to stop. And the older child swam away. The younger child followed, and so the fifth grader kept swimming away and saying, “Please stop.” Eventually after asking multiple times, he started yelling and splashing the other child.

The mom of the older child went over to see why he was yelling, preparing to take him out and tell him to leave the younger child alone. Her son explained he was trying to get away and was “defending himself”. She told him to remember this child was much younger.

Swimming went on, and the younger child started chasing again. Noticing the heightened anxiety of her son with autism, she walked over and asked the younger child to please not chase the older child since he didn’t like it.

The mom continued watching, watching the other parent, wondering if he would say anything. After asking the child one or two more times and still no result, she decided to approach the other parent. It had seemed that he had been watching and did nothing, yet she thought it was time to ask for back up.

This autism mom walked over and calmly asked if the dad could please ask his son to stop chasing the older child. He did.

Now, this is not a rant. I’m considering it a public service announcement. I’m not looking for you to bash one parent or the other. We all have moments of paying more attention than others, and we all have times we miss things, including myself. And honestly, who knows what was going on in the mind of the other parent. He may have been distracted.

My point is this…

If you are out with your child at a place like a park or a pool or a playground, and another child seems to be having difficulty with your child, please take a moment to step in and see if you can help. I’m not saying hover. But if another child yells at or runs from your child four or five times, that may mean adult help is needed.

You see, that other child may feel she is defending herself. For whatever reason, she can’t communicate to your child that she would like it to stop, whatever it is. Or your child is not understanding the seriousness of the situation. Your child may not be doing anything wrong, but this situation needs help.

This is for the safety of the children involved and for the well-being of the child who can’t communicate. Not all children with challenges look like they have challenges.

Special needs parenting is a challenge. We’re often called helicopter parents–you know, the hovering kind. And, I’m sure sometimes we are. But there are also times when we could use your help. Our children could use your help.

There will be times we need you to

  • ask your child to step back
  • tell us if our child is bothering your child
  • work with us as we seek to teach our child social skills
  • be patient
  • help your child learn about the challenges some children face

We all want our kids to learn to solve problems on their own. After all, that’s part of growing up. My question for you, that I’d love to hear your answer in the comments, is…

How do you decide when to step in on the playground, at the pool or park?

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