Living in a wheelchair is difficult. Children and teens who use wheelchairs often have a hard time making friends. Yet, having at least one good friend is essential for good mental health.

Other children can be afraid of someone in a wheelchair because they do not understand or are fearful that they might become disabled, too. Rudy Sims, a friend I met through social networking, says that he is “willing to answer any questions about [his] disability because [he’s] always believed that helping people understand reduces fear.” He adds that, “understandably that is not something everyone with a disability wants to do.”

 You can follow and learn from Rudy Sims on Twitter via @disability.

A recent posting to a help site asks, “How do I go about making friends? I mean I know how, but in my situation [requiring a wheelchair] I realize I’m not really anything that anyone wants.”

This is a heartbreaking statement, and it is simply not true. Everyone has something to offer, and children who do not have disabilities need to realize that a wheelchair does not mean anything about who the person really is.

Parents can help their children accept all people and to be less fearful of someone in a wheelchair. Parents of children in wheelchairs can teach their child the basics of how to make a friend. Some of the following tips are from Women’s and Children’s Health Network of Australia:

 Parents or aides may need to assist children with this process. Young children especially may not be able to initiate the conversation. With a little help from you, they can learn to make friends on their own. Remember, resilient children need to have at least one good friend.