You can't choose your neighbors, but you can choose how you interact and build relationships with them. For parents of kids with special needs—like myself— the topic of neighbors is a touchy one. Yes, kids like my non-speaking autistic son can be loud or they can wander or they might need extra support, but that doesn't mean they aren't kids and it doesn't mean we wouldn't love to participate in the neighborhood community.
One of my friends, professor Lyn Jones, who is mom to Will, a high support teen with autism and cerebral palsy, recently wrote a beautiful open letter on her blog that offers some great advice for how to be more inclusive as a neighbor. The post shares some of her hopes—like her wish that the neighbor's kids would interact with her own son while they all wait for the bus—and speaks to the loneliness and isolation that many parents of kids with special needs feel on a daily basis. Drawing from Lyn's advice, I've been thinking about what I'd say to my own nieghbors—past, present, and future:
Really, all of these tips could be summed up in a few words: Be nice. Be accepting and patient. Reach out and then follow-up. And don't be afraid of us, our children's disabilities, or of asking for or giving help.
I hope these suggestions help you build community in your neighborhood. As Lyn notes: "It's easier than you think to be neighbors with a family like ours. Like our son, we too just want to be included."