‘Hi, I am a kid with a disability and I am spending more time at home because of COVID-19. I miss my friends. I say their names, point to their pictures, look out the window, sometimes I cry. Can you help me, please?’
Because of COVID-19, children may have fewer opportunities for friend-time that normally would have happened through activities like hockey, broomball, playing at the park, walking in the woods, family and community gatherings.
Wanting friendships is normal. And like most children, children with disabilities value friendships and social connections, even if they do not always show it. Friends are good for social skills development, brain development, self-esteem, good mood, positive mental health and good fun. Life is so much better with friends!
Without the friend connection, loneliness is very possible. There is a risk for increased anxiety and depression: you may be seeing signs of this already in your child (if so, please contact your local CMC).
So, as a parent or caregiver, how can you help a child be a friend?
Here are some ideas that can help your child become or stay connected with friends:
- Video time with a friend (skype, FaceTime, zoom): play games, chat, eat a meal together!
- Multiplayer games: good for older kids and teens. The games where they talk to their friends in the games are great – just make sure that kids take a break, eat and batheJ.
- Phone: old fashioned but it works! Even 30 seconds of connection can really make a difference in someone’s life.
- Writing: text, Facebook messenger – directly to a friend or family.
- Email: can be super simple – a few words, a photo.
- Art: draw a picture and drop it off at a friend’s house.
The goal of these ideas is to make a connection and have fun.
Click below for the ‘Connection Checklist’!
Please note: while this was written about children, the comments also pertain to adults with disabilities who are missing their regular social network and friendships. Caregivers and families: any strategy that helps people maintain friendships is great!
Sometimes people with disabilities and their caregivers are already experiencing too much anxiety and depression that will need professional help. If you or someone you love is experiencing distress that is affecting their quality of life, please contact the wiichihiiwaauwin helpline, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
https://www.actcommunity.ca/covid-19-resources. Coronavirus (COVID-19): Resources for the Autism Community: Autism Community Training. Accessed April 15th, 2020.
https://www.autismbc.ca/covid19resrouces/. Answers to 12 Common Covid-19 Questions. By Selina Lim. Accessed April 15th, 2020.
https://www.spdstar.org/node/1495. Real Games in the Virtual Space – Hanging Out With Grandparents Online. Abby Mucklow, OTD/S. Accessed April 16th, 2020.