Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Value of Friendship

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

The Value of Friendship

Article excerpt

Everyone needs friends. If we want the people we love to be connected to others and a part of society as adults, we must think about their relationships when they are children. Their classmates and neighbors will grow into their co-workers and friends in later life.

Integrated classrooms and recreational activities are important first steps; in these settings, children with and without disabilities get to meet each other. But many parents have found that even though their child is integrated in school, he or she has few friends without disabilities.

People can establish friendships with one another, but it is not possible to create friendships between others. However, it is possible to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to meet and spend time together in ways that encourage friendships to take root and flourish.


* Promote friendship. Family members can work for the total inclusion of their family member into the regular school system. In addition to being physically present, students with disabilities need adequate supports for the fullest participation possible. Necessary supports will vary according to the student and might be provided naturally in the classroom as well as through special means.

Parents can also ensure that their child with a disability takes part in a variety of integrated recreation and leisure activities after school hours - including walking home from school with the neighborhood children. A consistent physical presence in each others' lives is a necessary foundation for friendship to occur.

* Ensure valued social participation. How people with disabilities are supported within integrated settings is important. Students need to be able to participate as much as possible, and to do so in ways that other people will value and appreciate. People without disabilities need the opportunity to meet their counterparts with disabilities as peers, not as tutors or volunteers.

* Involve and trust others. All parents feel protective of their children. While there may be difference in how independent people ca become, parents can nurture that there are people in the community who would, if given the opportunity, enjoy and welcome a friendship with their son or daughter. Parents can have interesting activities at home and invite neighborhood children or schoolmates to play, or they can create opportunities for their children to visit and call friends.

* Be aware of barriers to friendship. …

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