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Self-Advocacy & Building Friendships - supporting neurodivergent children/teenagers

Girls playing on phone

Building friendships can sometimes be challenging for neurodivergent children/teenagers. They may find that others misinterpret their communication style or don't have the same passion for their interests that they do.

Sensory sensitivities can also sometimes cause challenges as they may find large groups of children/teenagers and playgrounds overwhelming. They may also struggle to understand the rules of the games and misread other children's expectations of them.


Boundaries are necessary for creating safe, meaningful friendships. Everyone has different boundaries regarding communication and what makes them feel comfortable and uncomfortable. The child/teenager needs to understand what their own boundaries are and how to use them. Eg. They need to know how to identify if something is crossing their boundary and what to say if something upsets them.

It is important for children/teenagers to develop friendships on their

boys playing with bird

own terms and make friends who they feel a connection with. Often children/teenagers feel obliged to take part in certain activities or to have a large group of friends their own age. These stereotypes place huge pressure on children and adolescents and can often result in them spending a large amount of time with people whose company they don't enjoy or doing activities which they find boring and unfulfilling. They need to be made aware that you can have friends of any age and that everyone has their own preferences on activities that they do with their friends. It is a nice idea to discuss this with your child/teenager and discover what their preferences are.

Sometimes children and teenagers feel more comfortable having online friends and communicating this way. This is also a valid form of friendship. However, please be aware of potential safety issues with online friends and check that your child is only communicating with those that they also know in reality.

boy eating and chatting to mum

Try to create a safe, non-judgmental space for your child or teenager to discuss their concerns about friendship and boundaries with you. Try to focus on giving advice and problem-solving. This is particularly important for online safety, children/teenagers need to feel that they can discuss any worries they may have without repercussions.


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