As I’ve mentioned before, E will not being going to her catchment high school, which means none of her friends from school will be going with her. Over this year, we are aiming to develop opportunities for E to create some new friendships with those she will be going to high school with. The school and ed psych are supporting us in this and we hope to meet in the next few months to look at creating a link with a feeder primary school. To supplement that, we are also looking into after school activities both in the community use part of the high school and other places attended by the cluster school kids.
This has made me reflect a bit on friendships and the changing dynamics of those between children with additional support needs and those without. Chatting to other parents, it seems many found it relatively easy to create opportunities for children to play together and for relationships to develop. Children always seem very open to this and accept whatever adaptations need to be made.
As the children get older, and start to develop independence, things become more challenging. Children start to enjoy the independence of playing without adult supervision, often outside on bikes and the like. E wants to join in, but she’s slower and less independent than them. She’s still included but the children have to adapt their activities more to make that happen. It’s the same for after school clubs, many of which are based around physical activities which become harder to integrate as you get older.
There are other barriers too. As E’s helper I am learning to give the support she needs while blending into the background at the same time. Going to someone’s house is not as straightforward either as access is a bigger issue both for the wheelchair and E getting to the toilet. She’s never had a sleepover other than with family as the difficulties of lifting and transfers seem to daunting.
Now add into this mix the changes that all children around this age go through and the idea of building new friendships feels a real challenge to me. I should say that E is a friendly girl who is confident that she has friends and has the personality and empathy to make new ones given the opportunity.
It would be good to hear from anyone who has successfully been through a transition like this and your own thoughts on the changing dynamics of friendships.