Making Friends with Children who have SEND

August 22, 2017 Published by

As a society, we are becoming more aware of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and what it means to be inclusive, which is great. 

From supermarkets changing their disabled toilet signs to include ‘invisible’ disabilities to Autism friendly cinema screenings and shopping trips, changes are taking place to make the world around us a more inclusive place. 

It is likely that your child will come across another child with SEND whether in their class at school, or at a club or activity that they take part in. So how can we help our children to make friends with children with SEND?

Going to the Cinema

Helping children to understand 

Helping our children to understand SEND is a great way for them to grow up with inclusivity as the norm. At times children may notice and comment on people they see while out and about; perhaps simply expressing curiosity, or through discomfort.

The first step is to talk with your child; they may have raised the issue themselves or you might feel it necessary to bring up the subject. Perhaps they have a specific child in mind, or they have seen a character on TV. Whatever the situation, talking openly with your child and being a good role model yourself will teach them to respect, and not fear diversity.


How to talk to your child about SEND

  • Give your child age-appropriate explanations of SEND, remembering that each child with SEND is different. If they are asking about a child in their class, talking to the child’s parents is a great way of finding out exactly what their child is like and how their SEND affects them.
  • After discussing the specific SEND and the associated limitations, you can talk about how your child can take their peer’s specific needs into account and tailor their play accordingly.
  • It is important that throughout this process you look beyond the SEND and see the individual child. Find likes and dislikes, strengths, needs and challenges that the child may have; compare these to your child’s own. Although it helps to understand the needs and limitations of a friend with SEND, they are a child just like your own.


Playing together 

Once you have spoken to your own child and you have built a picture of their friend, discuss activities that they could engage in together and talk about how these can be adapted (if necessary).  

Helping our children to understand SEND is crucial here to make sure they don’t leave other children out because of a lack of understanding. 

What games do they normally play?  Are they accessible to their peer with SEND?  What changes could be made so that they can be included?   

Child playing with a hula hoop

Children tend to play wherever and whenever they can, regardless of constraints, but these opportunities can be greatly enhanced by the social environments they are playing in. 

Inclusive play creates a space where diversity is respected and valued and can bridge the gap between mainstream and SEND children. There are great benefits for both groups as they learn from each other and experience a real sense of awareness and togetherness.


The world is made up of lots of types of people – everyone is unique.  Accepting these differences (obvious or not) and talking to our children about SEND will benefit them, their friendships and hopefully will lead to a more inclusive society.

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This post was written by Claire Gillies

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