Finding friends a challenge for disabled

Everybody gets by with a little help from their friends but for developmentally disabled adults, it can be difficult to even make friends.

Everybody gets by with a little help from their friends but for developmentally disabled adults, it can be difficult to even make friends.

That’s why a local group is holding a workshop on Saturday to help families support and enhance friendship opportunities for adult children who experience the challenges related to having a disability.

“We all are healthier and do better in life when you have friends,” said Circle of Friends workshop facilitator Denise Lawson of the Family Support Institute. “It’s not any different for people with disabilities.”

Campbell River’s Families Leading the Way Support Group is hosting the workshop as part of its next meeting on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Campbell River Community Centre.

Families Leading the Way is a group of parents, professionals and caregivers who come together roundtable style to discuss issues and triumphs pertaining to children and adults with developmental disabilities.

In Saturday’s workshop, families, and anybody interested in the topic, can learn how to enhance the social connection between disabled adults and the community through encouraging friendship.

“Even though a lot of our children were included in the school setting, it was harder for them to have a network of friends,” said Lawson. “That is still the most difficult area when it comes to inclusion.”

People with disabilities have become more visible in the community but they are often accompanied with paid support workers. The Family Support Institute wants to encourage the development of social circles

“Families started to recognize that they need to be more intentional about (encouraging friendships) but (wondered) how to go about it,” Lawson said.

Young adults remain connected to their families but they also need a circle of friends. Friendship is not only important to how you feel about yourself but it can also be an issue of safety. You’re more likely to be missed by your circle of friends when you’re ill, for example.

So the question becomes, how do you make a social circle just a little bit bigger, Lawson said.

The Circle of Friends Workshop helps in supporting natural connections between home, school and community by discussing why friendships are important; what families can do to promote friendships; and how can families use ideas and strategies to put a circle in place.

Lawson is part of The Friendship Project (www.friendshipproject.weebly.com) in the Comox Valley that has been successful in developing circles of friends through such programs as Best Buddies.

Saturday’s workshop will include a presentation and then time for socializing and connecting over coffee and treats.

Upcoming and ongoing topics for Campbell River’s Families Leading the Way include:

n the Friendship Project;

n financing the future;

n letter writing campaign re: the lack of funding to Community Living B.C. from the province government;

n postcard campaign re: waitlists for young children requiring specialized service;

n building recreation opportunities;

n building leadership and volunteer opportunities;

n building employment opportunities and awareness;

n supporting families with a new diagnosis;

n providing meaningful parental consultation and advocacy with the school district.