One of my favorite things about the holidays was getting to see all my friends who grew up with me in Springfield, but now live far away. Katie (middle) and I have been friends since we got our identical winter coats mixed up after a show choir performance in the 8th grade. She was my maid of honor in my wedding, and she asked me to be hers following her recent engagement. Jill (right) and I became friends way back in the 5th grade, when we were in a school performance of The Wizard of Oz together. We were also in each other’s weddings.
These friendships came easily, but for many children, making friends can be a difficult and overwhelming experience. Most of my students are diagnosed with autism, and social skills are a major area of focus in the classroom and in music therapy. One of the teachers at my school asked me to write a song about making friends, and why having friends is important. I kept it basic, using language my students can comprehend, though it can be easily adapted for individual children and social situations.
Step one: wear a smile.
Step two: say hello.
Step three: introduce yourself,
To someone you wanna get to know.
Step four: have a conversation,
Ask a question or two.
Making friends can be so simple,
All you have to do is just be you.
You gotta have friends to make you laugh,
Help you feel better when you are sad.
You gotta have friends to make you smile,
Help you feel calm when you are mad.
You gotta have friends so don’t be shy,
Go out and give it a try,
Anyone would be lucky, ooh-ooh,
To have a friend like you.
I emphasized the importance of “being yourself” because many times, children in general, like adults, try to change certain aspects of themselves – be it their behavior, appearance, mannerisms, etc. – in order to fit in or befriend someone. Self-esteem is a value that should be encouraged at any given opportunity, and this song is just another one of those opportunities.
This particular tune lends itself to role-playing, either between the student and therapist/teacher/parent or between two or more students. Work together to establish comfortable conversation starters, appropriate dialogue, and body langauge. If you were to write a song on this topic, what steps would you add? If you’ve taught social skills and have any tricks up your sleeve, I’d love to hear about them.