My son, like so many other individuals I know on the autism continuum wants the one thing that we all want to have friends and feel accepted.
When you ask people “What do you remember most about school?” the answer is almost always “my friends.” Friendships are what motivates us to get up in the morning and go to school and to work.
Watching my son suffer from social isolation I felt compelled to do what I could to change this situation, not only for my son but for others who experience these same social difficulties. In 1997, I began reading everything I could about friendships between typical children and those with special needs. I came across a book written by Dr Pamela Wolfberg entitled “Play and Imagination in Children with Autism.” The Integrated Play Groups® (IPG). Dr Wolfberg’s book inspired me to learn more about fostering peer play and friendships and how the IPG approach could help my son feel part of his peer group.
After several years of extensive research, development and field-testing, the Friend 2 Friend Autism Demystification® model and programs emerged. In 2002, we founded Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society, a non-profit charity based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. That same year we started delivering our signature Autism Demystification® Puppet Program.
Over the years, the Society continually searched for new, innovated ways to support individuals with autism play and make friends. With the developing of our Play Centres programs, our seminars, Satellite Partnership program, BC Capacity Building program, seminars, training and publications. However, we did not stop there, 2018 we created and launched our Virtual Reality Autism Demystification program.
Regardless of what the Society may have accomplished over the years, or may accomplish in the future, I know it isn’t nearly enough. We must continually look for opportunities to model the value of play and friendships between extraordinary individuals on the autism spectrum and their peers.
When I dream of the land of chocolate, it is a place where individuals with autism have friends and feel accepted for who they are within their community. Hopefully, Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society has moved us a little closer to making this dream a reality.
Founder/Executive Director and Mom