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Does Special Ed Seventh-Grader Need More Friends?

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My daughter is mildly mentally retarded, and going into seventh grade with transitional status. What can I do to help her have more friends? She is very sensitive to the needs of others, quite forgiving of the mistreatment by her "normal" peers, selective to those she is a friend to, and very resilient to changes. Her friends outside of school are younger than she because she relates to them on their level. Let's put it this way: She's 12 years old and still plays with Barbie dolls (thank goodness!). Should I just be thankful for the way she is and not stress about this issue?

A: All 12-year-olds transitioning to middle school have difficulty establishing friends. My experience has been that special education students make friends in regular school fairly easily. My one caveat is if the school tolerates teasing, harassing, or bullying of any kind.

I do urge you to be thankful -- she sounds like a great kid -- and not stress about this. To get some assurance, you might contact either the school counselor or the head of the special education department of her school to get their insights into this issue. My odds are that she will do well.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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