Impact Feature Issue on Supporting the Social Well-Being of Children and Youth with Disabilities

Making Friends:
Thoughts From Young Adults with Disabilities

Young adults who are part of the Rockers 'N' Rollers group at the Memphis Center for Independent Living were recently asked to share their thoughts about social relationships. This article lists the five questions they were asked and the responses of five members of that group. The members were Tia (age 17), Mario (age 26), Davina (age 31), Nick (age 28), and Angelica (age 20). The information was gathered by Pamela Momon of the center, which is in Memphis, Tennessee.

For you, what have been the best places to get to know people your age and make friends?

  • At school. – Tia
  • Church. – Angelica
  • Don't know. I don't have many to any true friends I can trust. – Nick
  • At my school and at Memphis Center for Independent Living. – Davina
  • I have gained the most from places like Memphis Center for Independent Living, the Raymond Skinner Center [a recreation program for people with disabilities], and the Mid-South Arc. They all have youth programs that help me find and make friends. – Mario

When you meet someone that you think could become a friend, what kinds of things do you do to help that friendship start? How do you keep it going over time?

  • Be friendly, honest. – Nick
  • Talking to them during social get-togethers and by telephone. – Davina
  • I introduce myself and talk with them about everyday things; I maintain a friendship by being helpful. I find that there is an exchange of help that benefits my friendships. – Mario
  • By being friendly. – Tia
  • Be a good friend. – Angelica

As you've grown up, have you had any particular challenges to meeting and making friends at different times in your life? How have you responded to those challenges?

  • When I was in school I had a difficult time trying to balance doing my own work and helping others with their work. I found myself helping others before myself. Since I have finished school I can finally focus on just me and the needs I have to become more independent. – Mario
  • No, I have not had any problems. – Davina
  • The biggest challenge I've had has been since I received a traumatic brain injury on June 5, 2000. Since that I lost all of my friends. All my old friends were still there afterwards, but they were there to use me or to abuse what I had access to. – Nick
  • No. – Angelica, Tia

If a young person with disabilities wants to have more opportunities to meet people their own age and make friends, what things do you think they could do to help make that happen?

  • Go to their Independent Living Center. – Davina
  • I would tell a young person with disabilities to get out into their community and break out of being shy; just introduce yourself and let things happen on their own. – Mario
  • Join groups, start young, get involved with things. Join Scouts: Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. – Nick
  • After-school activities. – Angelica
  • Keep trying and one day the opportunities will happen. – Tia

What things do you think schools, youth organizations, and families could do to support young people with disabilities to have healthy and satisfying social lives?

  • Try to see that person's point of view. – Tia
  • Be more supportive and try to put themselves in their shoes. – Angelica
  • To have different social events. – Davina
  • Provide things out in the local community; this would cut down on health issues in my opinion. – Mario 

The Rockers 'N' Rollers group instills ideas of choice, change, and inclusion, and assists young adults in community living with a sense of pride, self-motivation, and confidence. It is geared toward self-empowerment through workshops on topics such as housing, employment, and independent living skills, and also focuses on building leadership skills that will empower and strengthen future advocates.