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Back to School: Peer Relationships

The 2014 – 2015 school year is upon us!
Friendships are an integral part of life and incredibly important to the school experience; however, children with NF1 sometimes struggle with making friends. Having even just one good friend can have a significantly positive effect on academic success. Below are some suggestions for ways to help your child build friendships this year.
Get Involved
Getting your child involved in an activity that he or she loves is an excellent way to help him or her meet friends. Remember to seek an activity your child truly enjoys. It might be a sport or could be chess club. Maybe it’s the Science Olympiad Team or choir. When your child is involved in activity that he or she truly enjoys, he or she will have the opportunity to meet like minded peers. Having similar interests and goals is a perfect starting place for a friendship.
Practice Social Skills
Some children with NF1 may experience difficulty picking up on social cues which might cause trouble in building and maintaining friendships. If you notice your child is not recognizing common social cues try pointing out social cues in every day life. For example, “Did you notice when the woman looked at her watch? I ended my conversation because that was her cue she was running late.” If you feel like your child could benefit from more regular practice, consider obtaining the app Social Express designed to teach children how to think about and manage social situations. The better your child is at navigating social situations, the easier it will be for him or her to build lasting relationships.
Educate Others about NF1
Some children with NF1 may be at greater risk for experiencing bullying because their peers may perceive them as “different.” If you find that your child is experiencing bullying consider asking your school if you or your child can talk to the other students about what NF1 is. Children are less likely to bully others when they understand the situation. Check out our educational brochures for both teens and adults on how to tell others about NF1. For more information on how to address bullying, please view our handout.
Remember also to check out Club NF and Beat NF. They are wonderful opportunities for your child to build friendships with peers living with NF1 and going through similar experiences.