Some people are not given much opportunity to make friends or be in a romantic relationship.
The Cost of Lonliness Project identifies loneliness as rapidly emerging to become the greatest public health crisis of our time.
When thinking about supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, there is a need to ensure that support includes opportunity for building relationships.
While some people will be social butterflies, building connections for others may be a slow, messy and complicated process. Sometimes you don’t find an answer, but you find a starting point.
When I look back at all of the work I have put into creating opportunities for friendship for my children, I can see that there were benefits even in the failures, because of what it taught us.
Life, and relationships in general, are complex and fluid for all people. The value of social connection is too vital to overlook when supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Helping a person to enhance their image will help others to see the potential in their ability to bring value to these relationships. After all, a true friendship is a two way street, with both parties benefiting, as opposed to one person being seen as a charity to whom the nondisabled person is doing a favor. Peer and other relationships have a better chance of developing naturally if they are built around the strengths and interests of the individual rather then random group outings.
Even if someone’s interests are complex or narrow, painting a picture of what they are good at, and where they are successful, can elevate the perception of the person to those around them. This helps people to see the value in someone and to recognize what they have in common. Commonalities open the door for friendship and help create the social safety net that is a protection from loneliness and it’s associated health risks.