Friday, November 28, 2014

The Friendship Dilemma: Finding Peer Activities

Continuing our series on friendship, the following thoughts on making friends are offered by a parent whose son has significant disabilities.

The topic of friendship for my son poses an interesting discussion. He is non-verbal and on the lower functioning end of the developmental spectrum.

Truthfully, and sadly, I haven't had making friendships as a goal for my son. He requires a caregiver to be with him where ever he goes. Oftentimes logistics, lack of energy, and/or lack of time are extra hurdles that get to be too much. My focus has been on finding activities that he would enjoy, or exist as a part of life.

Two way communication is the beginning of typical friendships and also what sustains and nurtures it. When that doesn't exist, then being in the presence of another for a lengthy and frequent amount of time is the only way to establish a friendship/relationship. 

Currently, my son attends a day program all week, and a bowling peer group monthly, and I consider his peers there to be his friends, although they have rarely gotten together outside of the respective events. Outside of these activities, his best friends are his siblings.


  1. As with many issues, I think that sometimes we need to not look at things from our own perspective but try to step into the shoes and perspective of those we are trying to "help." Does that person value having what we would consider friends or is their definition of "friend" something else? Do they exhibit joy and what circumstances elicit that joyful expression? Do they exhibit sadness or loneliness? If so, what situations elicit those responses?

    For my son, we try to give him opportunities and experiences in which his joy is expressed - even though he can't verbalize it he has many, many ways of expressing his desires, choices and likes/dislikes. His "friends" are people he sees out in the community who he says "hi" to and whose name he knows. His conversations rarely go past that - but these interactions bring him much joy.

    His definition of friend is very different than mine but coming from his perspective he has many friends. This is much more important to me than trying to find him "friends" that may fit my definition.

    In his world, he has many, many friends and he is full of joy when he meets them.

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