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The other day I was excavating Sophie’s bedroom (if you have a teenager, you know what I mean) and happened upon a middle school relic, a Best Buddies application.

Sophie has Down syndrome. She’s the target audience for Best Buddies, a kid who should be matched with a typical (or choose your favorite term for such) kid, right?

Not according to Sophie. It’s hard to read but look closely at the crumpled application and you’ll see that Sophie was applying to be a peer.


When she started middle school, I begged the staff to start a Best Buddies program. They did — one of the few junior high-level clubs in the state. The local administration for the national organization left something to be desired (more than once, the year’s biggest local Best Buddies event was scheduled on the same day as the local winter Special Olympics events, leaving kids with very few options to begin with a Sophie’s Choice. One year we tried to do both and it was a disaster) but I know everyone was trying.

Except Sophie. She was not interested in the Best Buddies model, not as it was intended for her. Like I said, awkward. I cringe at the thought of her turning it down, but I get it, too. Sophie takes math and English alongside her typical peers, but when it comes to extra curriculars, there’s only one club where she’s truly welcome.

It’s been the same in high school. Sophie attended a meeting of a Best Buddies-style club, in which kids from the self-contained special education program at her school are matched up with typical peers. Again, she decided it wasn’t for her.

She also decided last week, after the first miserable day of tryouts, that cheerleading isn’t for her, either.

So what’s in between? In between is Sophie herself, working on a daily basis to worm her way in at the school she loves so much. On the outside is ballet class, a theater troupe, and unified Special Olympics cheerleading. Sophie keeps busy, outside of school. Inside of school, not so much.

Best Buddies is great. But it’s not everywhere and it’s not enough.


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5 Responses to “And What If Your Kid Falls Through the Best Buddies Crack?”

  1. NDSC convention! It will be life-Changing for you both.

  2. Clearly we have a long way to go if Sophie has “to worm her way in” at a school she loves. I am thankful that she has found her way outside of school. I am equally concerned about students who are completely disconnected and have no healthy social and extra curricular connections— in or outside of school. Thanks for bringing this to light.

  3. dont you just love the wisdom of our kids . .BIG kids . .C was never accepted by best buddies . .who knows . .I gave up trying to figure out forced friendship long ago . BUT I did hold out hopes for Valley Big Brother . .Because C had limited skills verbally (his cp) they matched him up with a really really old guy (probably the age I am now)who was also Deaf . .Big brothers decided since C couldn’t talk this was a perfect duo. We lasted two outings before we terrified this guy and never heard from him again . .sighhhhh – I think Sophie is everyone’s Best Buddy – she gets it . and she cares.

  4. we’ve been. :)

  5. I wonder if you are aware of MORIAH. Below is a link to the website. It pairs typical kids with those who have special needs in a variety of activities. It may be a resource for Sophie or other families you know:

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