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!