Having friends is vital for our self-esteem as we grow up. Sometimes there are obstacles to a disabled child making friends at school. For example, a child with a full-time learning assistant may enjoy little opportunity to mix with peers, or they might be excluded from leisure activities by inaccessible venues.
There are ways around these obstacles. Although it can be difficult, there is no reason to think your child can't develop meaningful friendships with those around them.
Tips to help your child meet people
- If your child goes to a mainstream school where there are few or no other disabled children, find opportunities where they will have the chance of having contact with other disabled children. This might be directly through clubs, or through social networks (Facebook, Twitter).
- If your child goes to a special school, find opportunities for mixing with non-disabled peers.
- If your child's school is outside your home area, have a look for local activities so they can mix with young people from different areas.
- Encourage your child to invite their friends home or to make
visits to their friends' homes. You might have to find out if their
house is accessible first.
I had a strong group of friends and I'm mobile enough to get about most places. My friends always made an effort to keep up and are well practiced at helping me dress/taking me to the loo!
- Try not to be over protective.
- If it is not possible for your child to go out much, encourage them to keep in telephone or social media contact with friends.
- Enquire about local clubs that your child could go to, whether specifically for disabled people or inclusive.
Tips for young people to make friends
We've gathered some tips that you can share with your child to help them make friends.
- Do something you enjoy; take a class or join a club with people who share the same interests.
- Volunteering is a great way to meet people.
- Be genuinely interested in your friends, and listen to what
they have to say.
I was lucky to have good friends at school who didn't treat me any differently.
- Respect the opinions of others - we are all different.
- Be generous with compliments.
- Make the effort to stay in touch.
- Accept all invitations!
- Be the friend you would like to have.
Circle of Friendship
The 'Circle of Friends' approach was developed to help disabled children, who may be vulnerable to isolation at school, be more included in mainstream settings. A group of the young person's friends and peers are brought together at their school with the aim of creating a support network for them.
You could ask professionals involved in your child's care about putting these approaches in place as they grow up at school and in the community.
Bullying can happen to any child, but children with special educational needs or a disability (SEND) are more likely to be bullied. However, it is important to remember that not all children experience bullying.
Visit our bullying webpages for advice on what you and the school can do to deal with bullying.
- Find out about Contact a Family events in your area
- Download this information in our parent guide Growing up, sex and relationships [PDF]
- We've made an accompanying young person's guide - Growing up, sex and relationships [PDF]