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Tackling the tricky topic of friendships and relationships

People have friends all over the world. Friendships and relationships are important – they mean you have someone to talk to and you can share stuff with someone who has the same interests as you.

Dr Mark Brookes
Dr Mark Brookes, Dimensions Campaigns Advisor, blogs

I think lots of people with learning disabilities find it hard to make friends.

For me, I am very shy outside of work. I find it very hard to mix when I am not working. I think this is the same for most people with a learning disability. They find it hard to mix outside of their support circle.

When it comes to having romantic relationships, people can get even more stuck. People don’t always know what to do if they want a girlfriend or a boyfriend, they don’t know how to go about it.

There are some people with a learning disability who know they want a girlfriend or a boyfriend, but they might not understand everything about what that means. And some people might be confused about the difference between having a friend and having a more intimate relationship.

There can be lots of issues if people want to have a more intimate relationship – support workers can find it uncomfortable to talk about it and it can come with a lot of paperwork!

Having a girlfriend or a boyfriend is a very personal thing – some support workers might not feel like it is their place to get involved, but this can mean that a person who needs support doesn’t get it.

This is why I want to share with you a new toolkit that has been developed by Supported Loving. This has lots of helpful information and resources to support people to have friendships and romantic relationships. It covers a lot of the tricky stuff! You can visit it here.

Dimensions has discussed these issues over the years, and it’s true to say that it has been a difficult issue. It’s not about forcing people with learning disabilities to make friends, or find a girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s about people having the choice to make friends and giving people the opportunity and supporting them with the right tools.

We will be doing more work on supporting people to have friendships and romantic relationships. In the meantime, please take a look at the toolkit and thing about how it might help you!