My friend Louise recently wrote a raw and courageous post about the challenges she faces with her disabled son, Ben, and his lack of friends: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louise-kinross/genetic-disability-friendship_b_1263895.html
She references several articles and a British study entitled Does Every Child Matter? with the same theme: kids with disabilities have a harder time making friends and in many cases have no same-age friends.
My son Jacob is a 9 year old boy who loves being around other kids but cannot start a conversation, ask them to play or toss a ball in the school yard. He is a sociable kid and loves watching other children and being included in conversations.
He has a lot of friends, if that is defined by people who enjoy spending time with him but most of them are older than he is. Taryn, a girl 10 days younger than Jake, has been his friend for almost half their lives and she often comes over and plays with him. And he has some friends at school but has never been invited to one of their birthday parties or to their homes for a play date.
Jacob attends a segregated public school (where all the kids have a physical disability) for most of the week and is placed in a class with kids at least 2 years older than him because his cognitive abilities are higher than that of the kids his age at his school. Towards the end of the school year last year, and into this year as well, he has been spending one afternoon a week at a ‘regular’ public school. It was my attempt to surround him with other kids, kids his own age, with whom he could interact and hopefully form real friendships. This has been one of the best things I could have done for my son. He loves coming to Elkhorn on Friday afternoons – who wouldn’t when they are greeted with a loud chorus of “Jacob’s here!” as soon as his front wheels enter the classroom?
So when I read Louise’s post and the many comments that were made in response to it, I understood exactly what they were saying. And that’s one of the reasons I love that Jacob has the chance to make friends at Elkhorn (and learn at a level that is on par with his abilities).
If anyone else has any comments about their child and friends or lack thereof, I’d love to hear them!