Friends in School and Beyond

Some schools have a policy of creating intentional circles of support for their young people with disabilities by calling on peers who are student leaders. Peers who do not have a disability can certainly be a part of a circle, and the initial desire on the part of another young person to ‘help out’ is important, but there must be something beyond that for the friendship to last.

1. Try to work with the school and teachers to establish a circle of friends that will carry over once your son or daughter is no longer in school. An important part is in the choice of those invited to join the circle. The teacher will have suggestions. Ask him or her to try to find those who could have a shared interest or common ground with your family member that goes beyond school. Even better, if they live near you.

2. Encourage the school to help your family member own the process of building friendships–to state their preferences as to who will be invited into the circle. If necessary, you or the teacher should make educated guesses. Don’t be afraid to be turned down. Just move on to the next person on the list.

3. The circle gives a framework for regular interaction with other students or community members, and thus for the potential creation of relationships that can last. The success of the circle depends on the follow through that happens in the school and with the family if the relationships are to grow and continue after school. Where the school encourages regular circle meetings, the meetings can provide a place for the young person to practice social skills.

The problem is the privacy thing- how do you get names and phone numbers shared, when all such info is guarded by school staff. There should be ‘socials’ where the parents could meet and trade names and numbers.


Parents need to get the names and contact information for other young people and families who connect with their child in school. You can deal with the confidentiality issue by having a school person mediate contacts. Authorize them to give your contact info to individuals or families that meet certain criteria. Then those people can contact you.


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