A club for school kids seeking like-minded friends
Rihanna is a people person. In fact, when asked what she would like others to know about her, the 10-year-old responds, ‘That I like meeting people.’
But making connections and keeping up with peers at her mainstream primary school is not easy for Rihanna, which is why social groups like Club4Us are so important.
Her mum, Jo, says that while Rihanna has friends at school, she is getting to an age where she finds it difficult to keep pace with the games of her peers.
‘Other children her age are developing a different kind of play to what she likes to do and we are finding she can’t keep up with their games,’ Jo explains.
‘So a lot of the time she will walk around with the yard teachers or go check on the younger kids who are still playing the games she likes.’
Rihanna is diagnosed with a chromosome 16 depletion, resulting in some learning disabilities and her speech can be difficult for others to understand, which is why continuing to build her social confidence is such a priority for her family.
‘Rihanna just loves socialising. She is such a people person. But with our other children having all grown up and left home, she is the only child left in our house,’ Jo says.
‘I asked around and a lot of people recommended Gateways Support Services. She really depends on Gateways for her socialisation.’
Rihanna enjoys attending holiday programs and also Club4Us; a social recreation group designed for kids aged 8 to 13 years who attend mainstream school and are looking for like-minded peers. The group offers opportunities to navigate social dynamics, build independence and develop friendships in a small, supported environment.
Participants enjoy a range of activities including beach and park plays and, as restrictions ease, a return to excursions such as zoos, movies and play centres. Rihanna says her favourite things to do at Club4Us are going to the park, playing with other kids and talking to them.
For a child who is rarely invited places by other children, Jo says the program gives Rihanna opportunities not just to go out and do things, but to also mix with peers in an environment where she is not the weakest link.
‘She’s on par with everyone else and sometimes she is the one who is helping others instead of the one who has to be helped, and that is quite empowering for her.’
Rihanna says other kids should come along to Club4Us to ‘make some new friends and have some fun’.
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