July 30, 2017

Friendship is a beautiful gift that makes life feel richer, sweeter, and celebratory. People of all ages benefit from having amicable relationships with others and children, especially those with special needs, may need some extra help in developing such meaningful friendships with their peers. Let these five tips help you help your kiddo increase their circle of friends.

1. Ask the right questions
Asking questions like “why?” and “are we there yet?” tends to come natural to children. Actively work with your kid to improve upon this instinctive skill and help them learn to ask the right kinds of questions to start and carry on conversations. A role playing game where you take turns being an investigative journalist could be a fun way to connect with your child and help them learn this valuable social skill.

2. Make eye contact to show interest
Strong eye contact is an invaluable skill that will benefit your child throughout their life. By honing this nonverbal communication skill, your child will be able to improve their conversations with their peers and help them show interest when applicable. Staring contests and gentle coaching can serve as fun, non-direct training opportunities.

3. Promote a social environment
If your child is able to leave the home, take them to places that encourage them to socialize. School, daycare, church, organized sports, camp, boy scouts/girl scouts, playgrounds, and more all provide ample opportunities for both you and your child to meet others with similar interests. These encounters can lead to planned, repeat hangouts for your kiddos to bond with other children doing activities they love.

4. Organize play dates
You know your child best, so it’s easiest for you to create an atmosphere where they will feel comfortable and thrive. Invite1 to 2 of your child’s acquaintances over to your home and have several toys and activities readily available. You can use this time to show the other children what your child is capable of despite their disability and how they can laugh, play, and be a great friend just like other kids.

5. Find a peer mentor
No matter how hard we try; sometimes our kids prefer to learn from people besides their parents. Check with your child’s school or community group and see if a peer mentorship can be arranged. This individual can serve as a great role model by teaching your child many social skills through a strategic friendship.

At Epic, we want your child to thrive in all aspects of their life, including their social life. While their diagnoses and disabilities can add challenges to making and keeping friends, we want to encourage you and your kiddo to continue to put yourself out there for the sake of friendship.