8 ways to make friends when you have a disability

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart”.

We noticed a heartbreaking statistic nestled on page 241 of the NDIS' latest quarterly report. Of the NDIS participants surveyed, 33% of people aged 25 and over said they did not have a friend outside of family and paid supports. If this is you, and you've stumbled across this blog - welcome, we are happy to have you here and hope we can help.

Friendship is an important part of everyone’s life. While it can be challenging to meet new people you truly connect with, as COVID restrictions lift, we’re all craving social connection now more than ever, which creates an excellent opportunity to make new friends.

We’ve put our heads together to come up with eight ways you can make friends in the post-COVID world. Most of these tips are relevant whether you have a disability or not.

1. Join a club or community group

The first step to making new friends is putting yourself out there. You may find it challenging to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but it definitely will be worth it.

The best thing about joining a club or a community group is that you already share similar interests with the people involved. Whether it’s volunteering at your community garden, joining a community choir, dancing, or playing group sports, your NDIS plan may be able to support you.

You may find something called ‘Social and Community Participation’ in your NDIS plan, under ‘Capacity Building Supports’, this will help you increase your social skills so you can participate in community.

2. Attend a community event

Taking part in local activities and events in your community will make it easier for you to make meaningful connections with people local to you. Thanks to the internet, exploring what’s happening in your area can be as easy as a few keystrokes.

3. Volunteer

If you like the idea of helping other people (or animals) in your area, volunteering for a local charity or non-profit could be the right match to help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Because volunteering is open to everyone, it allows you to meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life.

4. Join a Learning and Lifestyle Hub

If you want to work on building your life-skills, while meeting like-minded individuals, then try out one of our Learning and Lifestyle Hubs. Our Learning and Lifestyle Hubs are designed to help you develop your independence, confidence, self-esteem and social interaction skills. Many of our hubs are already heavily involved in their community, whether it’s volunteering with Meals on Wheels, or participating in community projects, there are heaps of ways you can get out and about in a safe and supportive environment.

5. Enrol in a workshop

Is there something you have been wanting to learn or further develop your skills in? You may have heard of ‘Sip and paint’, but what about learning to make knockout gnocchi, crafting your own handmade earrings at a jewellery-making course, or even a flower arranging course. The choices are limitless, and there could be a class in your neighbourhood. What’s great about this activity is not only can you make friends, you also get to take home your creations. Just Google, “Fun workshops and classes near me”.

6. Reconnect with your past friends

You may not have seen your friends from high school in more than a decade, but the power of reconnecting with your friends might take you on a journey of laughter, joy and even nostalgia. School is a formative time for many people, we made mistakes, learned new things and grew up together with our school peers, and chances are they share a lot of the same memories you do.

You may be thinking, “Yes, I agree, but how do I do this?” The power of social media has brought us closer. Start by reaching out and saying “Hi” and see where that takes you.

7. Be open to saying ‘yes’

We don’t want you to say ‘yes’ to something that makes you uncomfortable, but often it’s the one thing holding you back from new opportunities. Let’s take a page from the movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey. While the main character, Carl, gets himself into some very tricky situations, saying ‘yes’ led him down a journey of new opportunities and new experiences. If you do have to pass on an invite, make sure to emphasise that you're still open to hanging out another time. Or why not make the first move next time?

At the end of the day, the best advice we can give you is to be open to new experiences, it may seem scary at first, but you never know where those new adventures will take you.

8. Make friends at work

If you have paid or volunteer work, your workplace may be another great way to connect with people you already know. Chances are you already know a few people who could potentially become good friends. We hear time and time again from Supported Employees who work at an Endeavour Foundation Business Solutions site that their favourite thing about working is seeing their friends and working next to them.

If your goal is to find a job that you enjoy, make friends and grow your confidence, Endeavour Foundation Business Solutions could be the place for you.

While no promises can be made about participating in outside of work activities, there’s so much enjoyment that can be received from having a job.

Try these simple tips to help you start building connections:

  • Introduce yourself and participate in small talk
  • Find a colleague to have lunch with
  • Offer to help
  • Greet people
  • Participate in after-work activities

The idea of making the first move to make friends might feel daunting at first, but the more you practise, the easier it will get. When you reach out, you might just make someone’s day, and that could be the first chapter in what becomes a lasting friendship.

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