We struggle with this too. Like you, my son goes to a top notch charter school. We’ve also been in mainstream schools and if anything, the peer relationships were worse. I agree with Penny, get the teachers and the counselors involved. There is one teacher at my son’s school that has taken a particularly active role in trying to incorporate my son into different peer groups. He’s a “favorite” among the students, so he kind-of acts as a mediator of sorts. If nothing else, I know my son feels less alone during free times because he has that teacher to talk to.
Scouts has been heaven sent to us. It does have some costs associated with it, but those costs are minimal – and there are several “types” of kids in a troop, so we’ve found a couple our son can relate too. And the leadership in the troop has been great.
Also, we’ve sought out kids in the neighborhood. These are kids that are typically a little younger than him, that don’t go to his school, that are more than happy to ride bikes or run around with him for a few hours a few times a week. The neighborhood friends seem to help fill the gap, so even though he doesn’t have any friends at school he knows he has some friends waiting to ride bikes with him after school.
I also agree with Penny on working on emotional awareness and social skills at home. Just like we teach table manners at home, it’s important to work on social skills too. My son used to throw a huge temper tantrum if he lost a game, so we started doing family game night or his Dad would start playing a game with him on the XBox and we’d work on our emotional response when we’d lose. He soon started showing improvements at school.
Another free activity might be a local park when the weather is nice. Kids usually play really nicely together for short periods of time and that might give her a nice outlet to work on social skills for brief periods of time.