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Ways to Make Friends with Small, Easy Steps

Teach Your Child to Make Friends More Easily These Tips


Updated July 10, 2011

Students with learning disabilities often feel socially isolated and have difficulty making friends because they may:
  • Have low self-esteem;
  • Worry about how they think others see them;
  • Have difficulty with nonverbal reasoning and picking up on social cues such as body language or subtle meanings in everyday speech;
  • Have limited interaction with non-disabled students if most of their classes are resource room classes; and
  • Choose not to participate in extra-curricular activities as much as students without disabilities do and may have limited interests outside school.
Students with learning disabilities may feel overwhelmed at the possibility of trying to make friends. You can help your child overcome his fears and make friends using these manageable steps.

Start simply by choosing from the following strategies. Talk with your child about the strategies beforehand until he feels comfortable with them. Take turns role-playing the strategies before school or before social events. When possible, be close by so your child can come to you for reminders. Alternately, make plans to talk with him afterward to discuss how things went. Above all, stay positive, and teach your child that making friends is a skill that anyone can learn with practice.

  • Teach your child to smile in a friendly way to at least one new person every day. He doesn't have to say anything or do anything else other than smile, even in passing. If the other students do not smile back, have him simply keep moving on or look away. At the end of the day, ask him what he remembers about the students he saw. Does he know their names? Does he remember what they were wearing? The purpose of this activity is to encourage your child to recognize others, smile and them, and observe characteristics about them. Once your child feels comfortable with smiling at new people, it is time to move to the next step.
  • Teach your child to smile and greet others. Assure your child that she doesn't need to talk beyond saying hello unless she feels comfortable doing so. At the end of the day, have her tell you about the people she greeted. Who spoke back? Again, if others don't say hello back, your child need not do anything other than move on to other activity. When she feels comfortable, have her move to the next step.
  • Teach your child to smile, greet others, and comment. Have him smile, say hello, and make a comment to at least one new person each day. Practice comments ahead of time so your child will be ready to speak appropriately. He can ask students how their day is going, comment on the weather, classroom activities, or compliment their work in class or other positive statements. When your child feels comfortable with this, move on to the next step.
  • Teach your child the art of polite questioning. Asking others polite questions about themselves is a great way for your child to learn about them and look for common interests for building friendships. Teach your child how having others talk about themselves is a good way for your child to help others feel important and valued. It also removes pressure from your child because he does not have to carry the conversation. In time, he will begin to feel more comfortable around these students and interacting with others. As always, continue talking with your child in a casual way about the new friends he is meeting and what he has learned about them.
  • By this time, your child's conversations with other students should begin to grow on their own. Consider having your child pick one or two friends to invite for a play date. Check out some additional ways to further develop his friendships.
  • Encourage shy or reluctant children to participate with these supportive strategies.

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