Podcast Episode 38. Friendships and purpose are two of the most important things to have in our lives. For young people with additional needs finding these can sometimes be a challenge. In part 2 of Stepping back Milla Johnson, an Occupational Therapist, and Lisa Campbell, a Speech and Language Therapist, discuss how to manage friendships and access work opportunities.

When it comes to friendships Lisa and Milla recommend having conversations to help young people understand that friendship is a two-way street and teaching them how to identify the qualities of a good friendship.  They say that as a parent, you’re also their role model and so need to be demonstrating how friendships work.

They also suggest that one way to develop social skills needed for friendships is to help our children get involved in social-focused activities within the community. This can open the door of opportunity for them to make friends in a secure and safe environment with other young people. Another option is to use a buddy system where you link them with a young person who helps them develop their social skills.  Joining local sporting clubs can also provide an opportunity to interact with others. However, Lisa and Milla also note that not all young people will want to go out of their way to sign themselves up for activities like this, so it is often parents who will need to make the initial connections, then step away once these are established.

Another key part of friendships is the ability to engage in conversations. For some young people, conversation starters can be difficult and Lisa and Milla talk about simple strategies to develop conversations skills, even playing board games after having friends around for dinner can be used to help reduce the pressure of social situations. They also touch on the issue of managing social media and talk about how to use real-life examples to educate young people how to manage their social media presence.

Lisa and Milla also talked about some of the challenges around finding a job. They suggest starting with an honest conversation about realistic employment options. However, this is not about placing limit’s but rather looking at ways to link to each individual’s strengths and interests to job roles.

There are also some practical tactics to help make finding a job easier including maximizing work experience and volunteer opportunities. Milla and Lisa argue that when an employer sees a CV, they can make assumptions but once an individual has actually worked in the organization then they can be judged on performance which is way more powerful.

Milla and Lisa also advise parents that there will come a time when they will need to let their young person take the lead in the search for work because ultimately it is they who need to convince the employer they are capable of doing the job. By not stepping back parents can be actually be hindering their young person’s chances of finding employment.