Social Relationships

He cares about me, and I care about him: Children’s experiences of friendship with peers who use AAC

Typically developing children face multiple challenges in developing friendships with peers who have severe physical disabilities and use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), especially when these peers experience restrictions in mobility, educational participation, physical access, and communication. In this small qualitative study, six typically developing children were interviewed about their friendships with classmates who have cerebral palsy and use AAC. Data were analyzed according to Riessman's narrative methodology (2008). Overall, participants viewed these friendships positively. In this article, we discuss the main themes that characterized these friendships: communication, learning, helping, and shared time. This knowledge may help to facilitate friendships between children without disabilities and their peers who use AAC within mainstream educational settings.

Anderson, K., Balandin, S., & Clendon, S. “He cares about me, and I care about him: Children’s experiences of friendship with peers who use AAC. “Augmentative and Alternative Communication 27, no. 2 (2011): 77–90.

Call to Action for the Texas Educator

How can you better facilitate friendships between students with complex access needs and their peer? Do you provide supports for communication and time for shared interactions? Could you create structured opportunities during instruction?

Fostering friendships: Supporting relationships among youth with and without developmental disabilities

Friendships are an important element of adolescence for youth with and without disabilities. Being known, connected, and involved in school and community life can contribute to a host of positive outcomes and improved quality of life for students with and without disabilities. By expanding students’ shared activities in schools, adequately equipping peers and youth, and engaging adults as facilitators versus exclusive supports, meaningful relationships can be fostered among youth with and without disabilities. Widespread implementation through evidence-based interventions of peer-mediated supports offer a viable pathway to an outcome that matters most: friendships.

Carter, E. W., Asmus, J., & Moss, C. K. “Fostering friendships: Supporting relationships among youth with and without developmental disabilities.” The Prevention Researcher 20, no. 2 (2013): 14–17.

Call to Action for the Texas Educator

To learn more about peer support, participate in the TX CAN online course Creating and Sustaining Peer Networks in the Putting Inclusion into Practice for Students with Complex Access Needs series.

The nature of friendship between students with and without severe disabilities

Friendships are developmentally important and personally beneficial relationships for all children and youth. Despite emphasis from families and educators of students with severe disabilities on the importance of promoting and supporting friendships with their typically developing (TD) peers in inclusive settings, such relationships remain infrequent. We conducted an integrative thematic literature review of research that directly examined the nature of friendship between students with and without severe disabilities to better understand how researchers define friendship, identify participants, and confirm participants’ friendships. Implications for future research are discussed. We also sought to identify themes in extant research to guide future intervention. The thematic findings point to the importance of adults providing direct support while fading their proximity to students, and of TD peers negotiating the ongoing tension between the roles of helper and friend.

Rossetti, Z. S., & Keenan, J. “The nature of friendship between students with and without severe disabilities.” Remedial and Special Education 39, no. 4 (2017): 195–210.

Call to Action for the Texas Educator

Be conscious of the amount of support you provide when supporting friendships between students with complex needs and their peers. In the beginning, more structured support may be needed, but this should be faded over time to allow for the creation of authentic friendships.