Thursday, November 8, 2012

Friendships for Sophie

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?


  1. I think it's a great idea. I'm pretty sure something like this exists in some private schools. We didn't have the extreme situation that you have, but a version of it, and it really is excruciatingly painful.

  2. YES! We certainly need to implement something of the sort here in Ideeho. How can we help?

  3. Okay, okay. Yet another reminder of the quote I heard the other night that "the opposite of what you know is also true." Bless Eric for looking at the other side of this coin and doing something about it. Bless you for passing along yet another fabulous idea. I would love to help in any way I can. Sign me up!

  4. I love this. People often overlook the gifts typical kids will receive in befriending children with differences.

  5. I couldn't agree more. I think many want to do better, but don't know how. Perhaps a step might be drafting a letter that can go out to pricipals and PTO's extolling the benefits of the program.

  6. Yes. I would want my kids to learn this at an early age. It's just brilliant and important and necessary. And kids learn very quickly. It would take the school being on board, and then just the right teacher.

    I also think you should consider writing an article about this. Because you have a way with words. Find a place to publish it. I'll share it with as many people as I can.

  7. This is incredible. i love the idea. im too far away to help obviously, but here for moral support :)!

  8. this is a startling idea. and so obvious, really. we can each help by making this active awareness part of our lives, and our children's lives wherever we are.

  9. I saw that article. I thought of you and of Sophie. I felt a small moment of hope and a huge amount of love.

  10. Interesting. I imagine many kids would welcome the opportunity to befriend someone with a disability, but they're just not sure how to go about it. Sounds like this is the perfect answer. Good luck on a worthwhile task, Sisyphus!



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