University of Edinburgh

Understanding and Supporting Friendships amongst children with Additional Support Needs

Presented on Thursday, 26th January 2017


How important are friendships for children’s development, mental health and quality of life? How can all children, including those with additional support needs, be supported to develop positive and reciprocal friendships? We explored recent psychological research into children’s friendships, with a particular focus on children with additional support needs. We considered the role that children’s social, cognitive and language skills play in friendship development, but also discussed the influence of school environment and the wider community. Practical ideas on how to support the development of children’s friendships at different ages were also explored. Learning objectives:

  • to understand the characteristics and benefits of friendships for children at different ages;
  • to consider the factors within school and the wider community that can influence the development of children’s friendships;
  • to explore research into friendships for children with additional support needs, eg, autism, Down’s syndrome, visual and hearing impairment;
  • to reflect on how the development of children’s friendships can best be supported from pre-school through to adolescence, as well as the practical challenges involved.


Participants said:

"Speaker was fab. Perfect pace and content. Know exactly what to take back to my school."

"Lots of food for thought, so will use lots of these ideas."

Target Audience

All professionals working with children or young people with additional support needs, and their families.


Dr Katie Cebula, Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh.


10.15 am Introduction: understanding friendship research methods; the development of friendship; and the benefits of friendship for children’s development

11.30 am Friendship in children with additional support needs: quantity and quality

1.30 pm Exploring the child and environmental factors which influence children’s friendships

2.40 pm Supporting the friendships of children with additional support needs: evidence and rights-based approaches

3.40 pm Course Evaluation and close