Walk down the hall of a high school between classes or visit a mall on a Friday night and you’ll see teenagers hanging out with their friends. Friendship is an important part of everyone’s life, but to a teenager, having friends and being accepted socially can be a matter of all-consuming concern. When students go off to different high schools, they often part company with their old friends. At the same time, social life in high school tends to revolve around new and more independent activities that may involve traveling around town and dating. Thus, teenagers who are blind or low vision may face a new set of challenges in making and keeping friends.
Suppose your child struggles to make friends and to be included in his classmates’ activities. In that case, it can be helpful to talk with his educational team members about specific strategies that you can use to help him develop meaningful friendships. Also, consider the following suggestions:
The teen years can be a time of questions and doubts for teenagers in general. Many worry about their appearance and any differences they have from other teenagers. This can be especially true for a teen is blind or low vision who may tend to focus on the ways in which they are different. Your child may feel as though they are the only one in school who doesn’t have a learner’s permit to drive, or they may be self-conscious about using a cane or about the appearance of their eyes. You can help your child realize that each person is unique, with strengths as well as weaknesses, and that they not the only teenager who feels isolated. Sometimes negative attitudes can prevent any of us from making friends. When people are unhappy and inwardly focused, others may think they’re uninterested in socializing. You might point out that focusing on others and showing an interest in them is more likely to appeal to potential friends. Here are some suggestions to help your teenager appear more open and friendly to others:
All of us benefit from having friends. Though time with family is important, friendships allow your child to talk with others their own age and make emotional connections, practice skills they’ll use when dating, and develop behaviors that will benefit them in their daily and work life. Friendships are worth the investment!