Creating and maintaining a sustained structure to help natural friendships to flourish between people with disability and others in the community (with or without disability), is foundational and necessary for creating and sustaining inclusion.

This can start as a genuine belonging and connection for students with disability in schools, enabling them to feel:

  • a valued member of their school community
  • engaged and befriended
  • connected to others in meaningful ways

Their peers also have the opportunity to not only be befriended themselves but to develop an inclusive understanding of life diversity which will enrich their informative years and aid them in developing into informed and compassionate young adults.

In our experience schools and wider communities benefit through celebrating a wide range of talents from people in the community which start from a point of view which recognises that each of us is a contributor. And that each of us has a responsibility to include every person.

Isolation is real

By including friendship goals in your NDIS plan you may have opportunities to enjoy hobbies and leisure activities that you were never previously able to do. We loved this example from Victoria as reported in The Age on 17th January 2017 by Miki Perkins: www.theage.com.au/victoria/breaking-down-barriers-to-help-disabledpeople-make-connections-20170112-gtqddn.html

Using your NDIS Plan to fulfil a goal of independent friendships

Your NDIS Plan can also be used to access other professionals to help young people with disabilities and adults to navigate friendships and relationships. Often there are specialist psychologists and counsellors who work in this field. Liz Dore, the founder of Relationships and Private Stuff, is an experienced counsellor and educator, working with adults with disability in the area of friendships and relationships.

Liz says friendships and relationship enrich the lives of people with disability, just like anybody else. She says that there are structured programs available for people with disability to:

  • gain self esteem
  • feel good about themselves
  • improve and practice communication skills
  • develop friendships

As a friendship moves into a relationship area, work covered with a person might include:

  • when to ask a person out
  • developing proper greetings and farewells
  • having an understanding of touching, timing and consent

IDEAS has a partnership arrangement with Family Planning NSW who recently won a Disability Innovation Award for the education of families about puberty, health, and sexuality and people with disability. Family Planning has a website complete with helpful downloadable fact sheets about all of these matters. One of the most comprehensive is called Relationships. This outlines the different forms of relationships, and the social practices that are good for each.

Rules to keep you safe and happy

  • Shaking Hands is OK if people do not know each other very well, and this practice is recommended for the workplace.
  • Close friends can hug, but it is always important to ask someone if it is OK before you touch or hug them and wait for them to say “yes”.
  • Family members can hug but they must not have sex with each other

It is OK for someone to hug and give a friendly kiss on the cheek to someone in their family if both participants are comfortable. It is not OK for a person to have sex or do sexy touching with someone in their family, unless they are wives, husbands
or partners. If a family member tries to make another person in their family have sex with them, the person should say ”No” and tell someone that they trust about what has happened as soon as possible.

You can connect with Family Planning on 1300 658 886 or www.fpnsw.org.au

Resource: The Age - Breaking down barriers to help people with disabilities make connections