Providing Social Opportunities
For some, making friends does not always come naturally. Relationships can be challenging and take time and energy. For many, there are obstacles and barriers to building and maintaining effective, healthy relationships. This includes limited opportunities to meet others, few external or family supports for them to get to know others, or lack of continuity and consistency in the development of friendships.
Those in the young adults’ Circle of Support can work to ensure inclusion, participation and involvement to help facilitate relationship building. This is not to say that the Circle of Support should choose the young adults’ friends for them, but rather provide them with opportunities to get to know others and advocate for inclusion and participation in the community. Look for ways to get the young adult in settings where they may be able to form friendships.
One of the most important things you can do to support young adults in their transition to adult life is to NOT overlook the issue of sex education. Take into consideration your young adult’s level of understanding, but don’t avoid the topic altogether.
Think about how their disability may affect their social-sexual development or their learning needs. Perhaps they’ll need information in different formats or presented in a different manner. It is important that sex education be comprehensive and includes things like reproduction, contraception, STDs, parenting and other issues concerning sexuality.
Teaching about sexuality protects young adults’ safety, respects their value as community members and helps them understand possible expectations and rules in society.
Social Networking, Internet Safety & Etiquette for Kids
Social media or social networking can be a great way for young adults to develop the skills needed to move towards independence and adult life.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to social networking. Pros may include opportunities for them to practice social skills, communicate with others, use technology in a meaningful way, make connections with others outside of their family relationships and express themselves. Concerns may include cyber-bullying, being too trusting and sharing too much information.
Talking with young adults about safe ways to participate in social networking can help address these concerns. The pros will many times outweigh the cons, especially for those with communication challenges as it can reduce barriers to holding face-to-face conversations.
Tools and Resources
Individuals with disabilities and their families may find that support groups are quite helpful. Support groups provide the ability to network with other people who have similar interests, needs or challenges. These groups can also be very helpful in learning about community resources in your area. Many find that discussions lead to new and innovative ways of supporting their young adult.
Support groups can be both formal and informal and are usually small groups of people who have something in common. Formal support groups can sometimes be found through local community service providers, medical centers, hospitals, social workers, etc. Often these are sponsored by an organization and may be led by a professional. Informal support groups are generally less structured and are typically operated on their own by their members.
For those who like blogging, online support groups may be of interest as well. Online groups can have a local, regional, statewide or national membership base. These groups are good for those who prefer to communicate through the Internet or may be uncomfortable with sharing in a group setting. Although online groups generally don’t foster companionship as an in-person group might, they generally can reach a larger audience, which means potentially more information or resources to help spark new ideas.