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, which 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.

Using a one-page profile

Making a one-page profile is a quick way of sharing information about your child.

It covers:

  • what people like and admire about me
  • what makes me happy
  • how I want to be supported

You can fill it in with your child. Use words and pictures together to talk about:

  • things that make them happy
  • what a good or bad day looks like
  • what makes them feel supported

One-page profiles and examples (The Local Offer)

Talking about your child

Talk to people who might be able to help your child. Tell them about what your child is like:

  • what they’re good at
  • what makes them laugh
  • what they like to do
  • how they communicate
  • how they like to play
  • how games can be changed so your child can take part
  • what they like to share
  • what they need in social situations

Other children

Children may be afraid of new things, but can be more open when they understand them.

Talking about what your child needs may help other children to understand how to interact and play with your child. How you want to do this may change depending on how much you think the child you’re speaking to will understand.

Other parents

You could invite their child to play with your child. Not everyone will be able to invite you back or be welcoming. You are not responsible for how other people feel about disability.

Teachers

Your child may behave differently at school. You can try working with the school by asking their teacher:

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

Your child’s teacher might know children who could be friends with your child.

Club and group leaders

Your child might make more friends outside of school. You could try inclusive groups or ones aimed specifically at disabled children and young people.

Your child has a right to be included. Talking about your child and how the group leader can meet their needs can help. Large groups like the Scouts and Guides have people in charge of including people with different needs. They may call these ‘inclusion leads'.

Talk to the group leader or organiser about:

  • what your child is good at
  • what your child finds difficult how your child likes to be supported

Use a one-page profile to help with this.

Going with your child to the group might help with this.

You could also talk about ways the group could be made more accessible for your child. For example:

"My child loves your group. What do you normally do in the session? How many children are in the group? He has a condition which means that he sometimes finds noisy places a bit tricky. Can we come along to see what it's like? Maybe we could come a bit early to help him feel settled when it’s quiet.”

Teaching your child to play with others

Every child is different – what they want, what they find easy to do and what they find difficult.

Help your child to try different things and go to new places. See what works for your child:

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

Providing the right equipment or making small changes to a game can make it accessible.

Talking with your child

Use stories and pictures to help your child to describe how they’re feeling.

Try to talk your child in a way that lets your child know that they’re supported and loved. Focus on what they can do. Make them more confident by praising them when they behave in a way that helps them to play with other children.  

Spending time with your child is not the same as them having friends, but it will help them keep them busy.

Respite care for your child to go to activities

Local authorities can provide respite care to help disabled children go to activity groups with or without you. It can also include them staying somewhere overnight on their own. This will be part of the local authority’s short break services in their Local Offer.

Respite care

Last reviewed by Scope on: 09/01/2019

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