Last night at my support group, one of the moms brought up a good point about the importance of friendships for children, teens, and young adults with special needs. As she has an older teen with autism, she is further down the road than I, and she has much wisdom to share. One of the advantages she has seen with her daughter is that she attended small self-contained classes throughout elementary school and middle school. Mainstreaming kids has its advantages, yes, but this friend’s daughter has made a strong bond with her classmates, which has served her well over the years.

Though this friend saw these friendships develop through school, there are other ways to foster this at a young age and older ages, as well. Communities often offer sports such as soccer, dance, gymnastics, and basketball for special needs children. Some of the larger churches in areas offer special needs activities for families that can give you and your child a support network. Local support groups and even fundraising activities also provide families with a network of other families in the area with which to build relationships.

As far as resources go, try calling local special needs preschools to see if they have connections to local support groups and other activities in the community. Also try therapy clinics, as they will often display flyers and have contact information for support groups and other activities, such as play groups and sports opportunities. Call your church, and if they do not have information for you, call some of the larger churches in the area. They are almost always open to helping people in the community, not just members of their own denomination. (Our support group meets at one of the larger churches in the area, but we have people come who are not members of the church and even some parents who are of other religions.) Also Google for activities in your area.