I've written about this subject before -- probably many times -- but I can't say anything positive has happened, and the fact that Sophie has few friends, other than those she sees daily at school, and no social life outside of our family, is one of, if not the biggest, heartbreaks of my life. I don't think I need to go into it, here, -- the heartbreak part -- because I know you understand it.
Last night, while cruising around on Facebook, I saw this article posted by Segev's father, Eric. The Canadian article is titled Learning and Teaching How to be a Friend, and makes the startling statement that perhaps it's not the child with disabilities that needs to learn to make friends, but, rather, the typical peer that needs to learn how to be a friend to someone of difference.
It occurred to me then that it was no longer Hannah who needed the training on being a friend. It was her peers. They needed to be taught how to be friends with a child with differences, so that when someone like Hannah did "tap them on the shoulder and ask 'Can I play?" they would answer "yes" and know how.The article discusses a program called Expert Friends that not only teaches children the social skills necessary to interact with children with disabilities, but also trains teachers to help build bridges between these children.
Its goal is to stop the isolation children with special needs often experience and help teach typical children effective communication skills so they can form valued friendships with children they might otherwise have overlooked.
Here's a quote from the article that explains what can happen when children are taught the skills they need to interact with another child with differences:
"Prejudices we are not born with. All kids want to play, but they're giving up after trying the conventional way to interact [with a special needs child]. This teaches them how to figure out a different way. They feel good about that. I literally see kids wiping their brow now they are taught how to respond," says Bonita.
I found this a remarkable idea, and I'm thinking that perhaps with the help of some people in my own community I might broach it to our mighty Los Angeles Unified School District (hence, the photo at the top of this post). Who wants to help me?