As our learning disabled children get older, their circle of friends becomes smaller. It’s a bit easier when they’re in school, especially their local school, because they can connect with young people in the neighborhood. But middle school and high school bring their own challenges.
Finding Common Ground
As with all young people, they want to establish friendships with those who have common interests and abilities. Well, that’s not so easy when you have a disability and all your classmates may be “differently- abled” than you. Some may have trouble talking, reading, walking, socializing, even behaving appropriately, and your child might not fit any of those profiles. So the friendship possibilities become smaller.
In fact, social isolation is one of the major problems facing learning disabled teens and young adults. Think about it. Most of our older children find friends on their own, at school, on their teams and in clubs and other extracurricular activities. Unless we find these activities for our disabled kids, they won’t be able to have that same advantage. And how much time does it require to find the appropriate social pastime? A lot!
I remember once we took our daughter and her friend to Bingo which was organized by a widely recognized group for the disabled. Our kids were so polite when we asked them afterwards if they enjoyed it. “It was good,” they said, “but everyone was a little – well – old.” Cross that one off the list!
Finding Activities That Fit
Since our daughter has three brothers, she’s grown up with sports all around her, and so Special Olympics has provided a wonderful outlet for her. The best thing about Special Olympics is that you don’t have to have the ability but rather the desire. And a big “COVID silver lining” is that, when they were unable to play because of the quarantine, they started a twice-weekly Zoom group which continues to this day. And there, they play a Bingo game that my daughter and her friend really enjoy!
A Job That Really Pays Dividends
Encouraging social interactions is just another responsibility for special needs parents. Our job isn’t easy but when we succeed at helping our kids make connections, the rewards are great. Let’s keep reaching out to each other for ideas so we can improve our children’s chances for life success.