Sunday, June 20, 2010

How Do Kids with Disabilities Find Friends?

How do kids with disabilities find friends? I know it can be challenging for any child to find comfortable companions their own age, with similar interests and compatible personalities. I spoke with the mother of a young girl recently on the phone. She was interested in bringing her daughter with spina bifida to a recreation program this summer. She wanted to know if other kids would be coming, and mentioned that it has been difficult for her daughter to make connections with kids her age that also have a similar disability.  Her daughter uses a wheelchair and has good verbal communication skills, but apparently other kids in wheelchairs she's met haven't been able to communicate easily, so a potential friendship doesn't click.

Those of us on the outside might assume that such connections could be fairly easily made through schools, special education, or family support networks, but I guess that is not always the case. This one phone conversation broke open my own lack of awareness around this point and left me wondering.

I took the photo above at a Universal Access Program a few years ago. On the hike, I was enchanted by the easy bond that took place between two kids who hadn't known each other prior to the program. It stood out to me then and again now because it was such a lovely example of inclusion and helpfulness. I'm guessing that friendship itself is more important than whether or not peer compatibility includes a disability. Clearly though, at least one mother sees the value of having a peer with a disability for her daughter.  

If you have experience with this, or advice, please share!


Anonymous said...

I really like this story, I have always noticed that it is easier for children to overcome differences than it is for adults. This is a very heart warming piece.

Justin, Kira and Evan said...

I have a young son who has spinal muscular atrophy. We have friends that have the same disease, but all of them are a bit older than my son. I have found that most of the kids his age are either bored with him (because he can't move) and ignore him. When he is in his motorized wheel chair the majority of the kids are afraid of him and steer clear. I try to pay close attention to the children who show some interest in him, who think it is fun when he is in his wheelchair and will run back and forth with him. Or will sit and play with him when he isn't in his chair. It doesn't happen very often, but those are the relationships I try to foster a bit more and it has been a beautiful thing to see my child smiling because someone will play with him, handicapped or not. I would want that mother to know that even though it can be difficult it is possible for our children to make those connections. Hang in there.

Marcy said...

Thanks Justin, Kira and Evan for your supportive comment here. I hope other parents get to read this!