Helping your child to make friends and feel included

All parents want their child to make friends and be happy. Every child is different. You know the kind of places your child likes, what they enjoy doing and how comfortable they are around new people.

Disabled children often have to manage different challenges. They might find it hard to communicate, be excluded by other children or have friends that live far away. Some groups or activities may also need adjustments to be accessible.

Some sensory conditions may make it harder for your child to understand how they feel in new situations. This can make it harder to make friends. Professionals might be able to help you understand your child’s condition and how it affects them.

Some people in your life will want to help, but not know how. This could include parents.

Young children (preschool and primary school)

Your child may be different at school. You can try talking with their teacher or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) about:

  • how your child likes to play
  • who they like to play with
  • what they’re interested in

Some children might be unkind. This could be because they do not understand. Some children may be curious and want to ask questions.

Talk to your child’s teacher about how to communicate your child’s needs. You could make cards explaining what they need.

I am autistic card (National Autistic Society)

Sunflower lanyard (Hidden Disabilities)

Or you could suggest stories that feature disability.

Storybooks featuring disabled children

Play dates

If your child has made a friend and you feel comfortable approaching their parent, ask if they want to come play.

Some parents may not accept or return the invite. This may be because they:

  • worry that their home is not accessible
  • are not confident that they can meet your child’s needs (you could suggest you stay to help)
  • have work or other commitments

Talking about what your child needs may help other children learn to interact and play with your child.

For example, on a play date your child might need a break. Tell the other children it’s OK to keep playing.

You could say something like, “Alex needs a little break. He’s a bit tired for now. Maybe in a while, we can try playing Lego. He likes that.”

Showing other children a way to play will help them understand your child’s needs.

Making friends and playing with other children

Every child is different:

  • what they want
  • what they find easy to do
  • what they find difficult

Perhaps you could practise these skills with your child:

  • playing by themselves with another child nearby
  • smiling, saying hello and making eye contact
  • waiting for things, taking turns in a game

Trying new activities

Help your child to try different things, practise things they find difficult and go to new places.

Try some ideas from:

Activities and days out for disabled children

Last reviewed by Scope on: 30/08/2023

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