Encouraging secondary learners with dyslexia to make friends – A sharing of ideas

The transition from primary to secondary school can bring about challenges as well as a daunting experience for most students especially for secondary learners with dyslexia; from studying in a new school, adjusting to a new environment, getting used to a new routine to making new classmates and friends.

National Association of Special Education Teachers (n.d.) described that children with learning disabilities (LD) who face social-emotional problems may have the following characteristics:

  • Tendency to misread social cues
  • Tendency to misinterpret the feelings of others
  • Lack of awareness in social boundaries
  • Lack of awareness on the effect of their behaviour on others
  • Lack of awareness in taking the perspective of others or putting themselves in someone else’s shoes


Even though secondary learners with dyslexia may be older, they could still use some pointers and encouragement on how to make new friends. Here are 6 tips which I’ve shared with my students that could be useful:

  1. Manage your expectations. Know that although you want to befriend a person, they may or may not feel the same way.
  2. Smile to whom you are comfortable to smile at. It doesn’t matter if they don’t smile back. It leaves a good first impression that you are friendly.
  3. Start with just ONE classmate. Find someone you think would have the same interest as you for instance, sports and photography. Then, introduce yourself to the person and share that you have the same interest.
  4. If you don’t have the confidence to introduce yourself yet, start by asking a question if they happen to enjoy a particular interest. Then, say that you actually enjoy it too.
  5. Bottom line is to start a conversation with a topic you’re most comfortable with. Sometimes, all it takes is to befriend just one person that you feel comfortable with and/or are able to connect with.
  6. If all of the above fails, do not worry. Practise conversing or even role-playing with your family or even close friends who support you and are not judgmental. Continue to focus on your own interests. Often, friendships can occur naturally with time.


So if you are a student; starting a new school or class or have any difficulty with making friends, take a deep breath and smile! If you face any challenges, talk to your parents or/and teachers. I’m sure they have more pointers and friendship experiences to share.

All the best in making new friends and more importantly in keeping your current friendships!

Nur Alia Binte Salim
Senior Educational Therapist & Curriculum Developer, Fellow (RETA)
Main Literacy Programme, Bedok Learning Centre

Learn more about Alia!