As this past Sunday was Friendship Day in the US, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts about friendship. Friendship can be a challenge for children on the spectrum. From my personal experience, Ryan sadly had no friends during his years at school. I often thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone would invite him to their birthday party?” Unfortunately, that never happened. Ryan preferred the company of adults. I think that was because the adults would take the time to listen to him when he would speak in a rapid manner and would wait patiently for him to him to formulate his thoughts. I think that these adults recognized the importance of kindness more so than Ryan’s peers.
In a perfect world, parents and teachers would emphasize the importance of being kind, particularly to peers who may seem “different.” Truth be known, children are more alike than they are different, regardless of their disability. Since Ryan graduated, I do think there is much greater emphasis in the schools and in the community on acceptance of children with disabilities. We have come a long way, but I know the journey continues!
If you are the parent, educator, or even an acquaintance of someone with disabilities, you can support that person in their quest for friendship in a number of ways.
- Be patient when the person speaks. It may take him/her longer to express a complete thought. Auditory processing difficulties are present in many children.
- If you are the parent of a typical child, it’s essential to have conversations about some of the specific characteristics of a child with a disability and that there’s no reason to be fearful of him or her.
- Communicate clearly, in short sentences, with a reasonable pace and volume. If the child is non-verbal, you may want to use a picture or a communication board.
- Try to create social opportunities for your child by inviting others to his or her preferred activities
- Investigate the Best Buddies program. If there is not a chapter at your school, consider working with administration to start one. Ryan participates in ebuddies, and thoroughly enjoys emailing his buddy. In fact, emailing is his preferred method of communication with others, and he has quite a few “conversations” going at any time!
Any tried and true tips you’d like to share? Send them my way!