Table of contents > Chapter Two: Building Relationships
In this chapter:
- Making Friends in School
- Tips on Supporting Friendship in Schools
- Relationships: The Key to Effective Advocacy
Making Friends in School
Schools are the hub of every community. They are places where students develop a sense of belonging; where they learn that they are connected and matter to the community. Developing friendships is an essential part of inclusion and belonging.
A friendship with another child is often one of the most significant events to happen in a child’s life. It’s often one of the most important goals that a parent/caregiver may have for their child.
Making friends isn’t an instinctive ability. It’s a skill that all people (with and without disabilities) need to learn and practice. Individual Education Plans often incorporate the development of social and friendship skills as goals. Strategies will include intentional opportunities to build friendships.
Students without disabilities also need support and guidance on how to be inclusive and more accepting of diversity.
Not surprisingly, when positive social interactions are fostered and peer acceptance increases, all students show improvements in social skills and self-esteem, transition and communications skills, and language and cognitive development.
Children and young people without disabilities have reported that being with those who have disabilities has improved their self-concept, increased their social awareness and acceptance of others, reduced their fear of human differences, and helped them develop personal principles and friendships.
Young children are often naturally inclusive. Supporting an inclusive mindset can become even more important as students get older.
Tips on Supporting Friendship in Schools
Educators can encourage interactions and support the possibility of friendship between students in a variety of ways:
Develop a Friendship Mindset:
- Constantly think about the quantity and quality of your students’ social interaction opportunities.
- Pay attention to how students are interacting.
- Consider the social implications of your academic decisions.
- Strive to support students with disabilities to do all that their classmates do during each and every school day.
- Believe the student can not only develop a friendship, but would make a wonderful friend!
Increase the Quantity of Social Opportunities
- Maximize Inclusion
- Write Social Goals into the IEP
- Build Bridges
- Decrease Adult Proximity
- Be a Facilitator
Increasing the Quality of Social Opportunities
- Highlight students’ similarities
- Convey Student Strengths
- Interpret student behaviours
- Teach students how to interact
- Prepare students for social interactions
Resources: Making Friends in School
- Making Friends: with and without disabilities in school (The Arc, 2017)
- Friendships and belonging (Fact sheets from Community Resource Unit)
- Friends (Foundry)
- PEERS social skills progam
- Children’s books on friendships
For more resources on friendships see the Community and Provincial Resources chapter (Chapter 10 coming soon)
“Self-Determination is the ability to identify and achieve goals based on a foundation of knowing and valuing oneself” (Field and Hoffman, 1994).
Every student has the right to set goals, make plans, make mistakes, reflect on their learning, and recognize their growth and agency. The same needs to be true for students with disabilities and additional support needs. It is essential to support students to own their voice and foster their self-determination like the rest of their peers, so that we all see them as contributors and important members of our society.
Parents/guardians, educators, and everyone in the school community play a role in ensuring that students exercise their right to self-determination throughout the school years.
“The core competencies of BC’s new curriculum directly align with self-determination theory. Helping every child set goals; helping them see themselves as capable of achieving things; and also recognizing and nurturing their agency.” (Dr. Leyton Schnellert).
“You learn from your mistakes. If something goes wrong, or if something goes good, you know that it was your choice” (Katie Miller).
- Exercising Self-Determination in our Schools (Inclusion BC and the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship)
- Inclusive & Competency Based IEPs – The Importance of Student Agency (Leyton Schnellert)
Relationships: The Key to Effective Advocacy
Everyone in the school community plays a role in achieving a culture of collaboration, where mutual trust and respect enhance every student’s ability to succeed. Strong relationships make it possible for parents/guardians and educators to work constructively together to meet the unique needs of students and provide them with a quality education.
Inclusive education is not an isolated activity or only one group’s job. While schools and governments have an obligation to recognize the rights of all children to quality education, this can only be achieved with the active support and engagement of the entire school community.
Strong relationships are an essential part of an inclusive school and the key to effective advocacy. Later in this guide, we delve deeper into how to build strong relationships through effective communication (chapter 7 coming soon).