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Friendship Programs Beneficial for Teens

teen disability programs

The teenage years are often a challenging time for students. Teens are trying to find their own way in the world. They are gaining independence and determining what they may want to do with life. At the same time, they are put into social situations where many may be pushed to the side and left out. This is what happens to a lot of special needs teens. Special needs teens have the same friendship desires as their peers. The problem for some is they may not be able to go to social venues like regular physical education class, sporting events, and more. To assist with this some schools are turning to buddy programs.

Best Buddies Helps All Students

Found in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shrive, Best Buddies is a non-profit organization. Their mission is to have a global volunteer movement which creates friendship, integrated employment and leadership development for people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. At the high school level, Best Buddies is a student-run friendship club. Buddy pairs are made between students with and without disabilities.

Best Buddy friendship chapters are found at high schools. The students work together to plan and carry out at least four group activities a year.  Activities are held in and out of the school. These could be a dance, bowling party, dodgeball game, or a trip to the movies. The key is working together and forming friendships with the person they have been paired with.

When matched with a buddy, each teen makes a commitment to their new friend. They must be in touch with their buddy at least once a week. This could be at school, calling them, texting, or even emailing. They also must get together with their buddy at least twice a month. Buddies are encouraged to eat together, go to a game at school, or spend time studying together.

Showing Empathy and Building Friendships

The Best Buddies program not only help teens to form new friendships, it promotes inclusion. Members of the program are actively working on the inclusion of special education students in the school community. The program shows teens how much they have in common. They also see how it may have felt not to be included in other school events. The new buddies are able to work on ways to incorporate more students into all activities to showcase disability rights and advocacy.

Does your school participate in Best Buddies? If you do not, be sure to look at information on their website on how to join. Have special education teachers and other therapists come together to see how this type of program would be beneficial in your school. If events are not inclusive to all students, why is it the case? A program like Best Buddies could open the eyes of more students to help their peers to be part of your high school community and beyond.

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