How to be a good friend to someone with an intellectual disability

11 November 2019

Friendship and community at times are everything.

Be it a shoulder, an ear, a high five, a laugh, a lesson and sometimes if we are lucky, a lifetime; the people in our lives help us fulfil a universal human desire – connection.

We all need it.

We all need to contribute and feel cared for.

To share that mutual feeling of understanding, so that we can feel held in that moment.

To be witnessed and grow through witnessing.

And if you don’t find your pals it can take a toll.I

You don’t need to read through the rather bleak World report on disabilityII report to know that a good portion of people with disability feel excluded and alone. 

Research also shows that a good portion of young people are avoiding connecting with others, because of their disability. III

We believe it’s time to bridge that gap!

No matter how unique you are, there is someone out there waiting to be your personal cheerleader.

Here are some tips on how to vamp up your circle of friends to include someone with intellectual disability and make it last!


  1. First step is to go into the journey with an open mind, patience and willingness to go with the flow.
  2. Reach out to a support provider / support worker and share your interests to see if you can find a match.
  3. Ask to volunteer at a service, special event or conference related to the sector.
  4. Ask someone in your current circle if they have any friends with disability and if they have tips.
  5. It might sound overly simple but instead of looking for friends, simply be a friend.
  6. When choosing an activity, the simplest of experiences like kicking back and watching a movie can be lovely and take the pressure off.
  7. Take the time to consider what is meaningful to your new friend – do they just want to be with you, do they like going to a certain café or do they like to listen to music and have a bop?
  8. Kick back and shoot the breeze “tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected” – Charles Lamb.
  9. Have clear boundaries and lead by example – there is no quicker way to damage a good thing without boundaries and agreements. Often our expectations don’t align so communication and clear boundaries are key.
  10. Consider your new friend as a precious plant, stay in touch, keep them topped up in the way they need it and last, but not least keep it sunny, light and fun.

What you may realise is that this guidance is no different regardless of your ability.

At the core of it, we all cherish our dear ones.

So, what are you waiting for – get to it, make your life brighter today.

You could find your new friend who is also obsessed with water-colouring kittens or bird watching black swans.

I Mayo Clinic Organisation, Friendships: Enrich your life and improve your health (2011)

I I World Health Organization and World Bank Group, World report on disability (2011)

 I I I Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers 2018 (2018)

Contact us to find out how we can support you


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