Celebrating the International Day of Friendship

Did you know that July 30th marked the International Day of Friendship? I started thinking about the rationale for why the United Nations established such a day, so I did some research.

International Day of Friendship was proclaimed as a reminder to all that we should promote respect for all human rights, as well as foster a culture of peace and security through tolerance and understanding. No question about that.

Ryan Beats the Beast 2015

But, I began thinking on a smaller scale. What is the value of “friendships?” Friendships certainly have a major impact on our health and well-being. Some benefits include a boost in happiness, an increase in self-confidence and a sense of belonging.  Needless to say, friendships can also decrease stress and the risk of depression.

I then began considering children with Autism and the concept of “friendships.” Many children experience communication challenges and have trouble with social interactions. They may shy away from the simplest conversation, avoid eye contact, or appear to be “uninterested.” However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to have friends! They may simply lack the social skills for developing friendships.

For Ryan, establishing friends among his peers has been a significant challenge. Whether it is his speed in talking, his narrow interests, or anxiety with unfamiliar people or settings, peer friendships are very limited. However, with adults who are willing to listen to his “funny” jokes, tell him to “speak slower so I can understand you,” and actually engage him, he has friends.

So, in celebration of International Day of Friendship, I would like to thank all who have made the effort to be a friend to Ryan. You are special!

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