Translate this page

Friendships and belonging

Being a valued contributing member of the school community is important for every student.

Students with disabilities can and do make deep friendships with fellow students, but often building friendship and belonging takes intentional planning by educators and families, as well as making sure ‘old ideas’ or practices do not get in the way.

Feeling heard, ‘having a voice’ in decision making, and knowing parents and school staff care if things aren’t going well, is extremely important to every child.

  1. Strategies for Encouraging Friendships
  2. Valued Roles
  3. Supports Around 'Behaviour'
  4. Building Emotional Well-Being

Strategies for Encouraging Friendships

How do we make friendship more likely for children with disability? Children need to be present with other children. Children need to be in a place that allows time for them to connect.  It helps to have a ‘bridge-builder’ … the school playground allows time for children to connect, but in the absence of conscious bridge-building, an isolated child can remain isolated for a very long time.

David and Faye Wetherow, Reflections on friendship

Fact Sheet

Building Friendships

Community Resource Unit Ltd. (CRU)

The cover for the fact sheet 'building relationships'.

Click here to read the fact sheet (PDF)

Article

Foundations for a Good Life

Rob and Virginia Lonsdale

In this article Rob and Virginia explore how their family is consciously building a foundation for their son to have a range of relationships and friendships by being included in community.

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Article

Disability & Friendships: What I wish I Knew

Sylvana Mahmic

Parent Sylvana Mahmic writes a series of letters to her younger self, exploring some of the lessons she has learned about the power of friendships and having a focus on her son’s strengths.

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Booklet

School Life is More than Academics:  The Power of Extracurricular Participation

Community Resource Unit Ltd. (CRU)

Click here to read the booklet (PDF)

Video

Talking with friends - Claire's PODD Squad

Hannah Gutke

Claire’s mother Hannah shares her intentional strategy of how a fun and informal group of friends can grow and learn together through shared use of technology.

Video

Mac-ifications to Mac Burn's handball buggy

Family Advocacy

Mac’s family shared their vision of an Inclusive life for their son with his school, to involve him in all aspects of the life of the school.  This is one example of how simple modifications can enhance the chances of friendships developing.

Fact Sheet

Tips for Parents. Friendships: Building a Good Life

Peal Centre

Fact sheet about Friendships addresses the 6 elements of friendships and what parents can do.

The cover for a factsheet. The title is 'tips for parents - friendships: building a good life'

Click here to read the fact sheet (PDF)

Article

It's a numbers game

Meg Sweeney

"By the time Joscelyn leaves high school she will have encountered over 2000 young people and 150 adults.  This has been a massive opportunity for Jos to know people and for people to know her."

Click here to read the article (PDF)

For children, the normative pathways of childhood support and encourage opportunities to play together formally and informally … Inclusive schooling provides another vehicle for normative pathways. As with everyone, only a few of many inclusionary community experiences may result in fully fledged friendships.

Therefore, as many such experiences as possible should be encouraged, and as much as possible, the pathways to community inclusion should be ordinary ones.

Bruce Uditsky, Inclusion Alberta Opens in new window

Article

Building Friendships Through the School Years

Community Resource Unit Ltd. (CRU)

"Always assume that while we cannot manufacture or “force” friendships, we can steadily invest in opportunities and strategies that make friendship more likely.

Sometimes the investments will bear fruit quickly and other times, we will only see the results over the longer term… but if we want a life rich in relationships, we need to act with intention and focus towards a vision of a life which includes deep and rewarding relationships."

The cover of the article 'building friendships through the school years'. It has many images of Sean and his close friends throughout his life.

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Video

We're all friends - Things we love about Sean

Sean Fisher and friends

This video was included in presentation Sean did with his mother Lisa Bridle at the 2018 Imagine More Conference in Canberra.

Their presentation can be watched in full on the Imagine More YouTube channel and titled The Grass is Greener Where you Water It: Investing in Relationships and Everyday Wonders.

Video

Looking for opportunities for friendships to blossom

Family Advocacy

Parent Jan Kruger looks at the ordinary and everyday ways in which friendships can develop.

Article

Jack's bunch of mates

Jan Kruger, Imagine More

"Over the years we have connected with many families who found their children’s teenage years really hard. Teenage-hood is an awkward time for most kids, a time where kids are discovering their identity, where they belong; all the while hormones are racing through their bodies. Add the complexities of disability into the mix and it can be even harder.

This was the beginning of the idea of a Bunch of Mates forming – an intentional group of students coming together for the purpose of nurturing opportunities where healthy, positive and deep friendships could form."

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Video

Circles at Schools

Belonging Matters

Sue Smith and her son Isaac are participants in Community Living Project's 'Circles at School' project and in this presentation Sue shares key elements of the program and outlines the successful impact it has had in Isaac's life.

Article

Making Relationships a Priority

Paula Kluth

“Many students with disabilities – including those with significant disabilities – make friends during the secondary school years and sustain those friendships for years.  We know this dream is possible.”

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Article

Promising Practices to Support Friendships in Inclusive Classrooms

Barbara Davis Goldman

This article lists ways that professionals and parents can help support friendships in the classroom and school community.

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Valued Roles

Feelings of acceptance come from being acknowledged as someone who is intrinsically worthwhile and/or having characteristics that are seen as worthwhile. This could be as big as being in a role that allows someone to contribute to society, or it could be as small (yet no less important) as being admired for one’s way of being in the world...

Being in valued roles that are related to interests or talents reinforces the similarity between people, rather than emphasising what is different.

Jane Sherwin

Booklet

Harness the Possibilities

Resourcing Inclusive Communities (RIC)

The cover of the booklet harness the possibilities - planning a positive future for a child with disability by Resourcing Inclusive Communities

Click here to read the booklet (PDF)

Article

More than an onlooker!

Glenys Mann

Being a music student opened the doors to other student networks in the school and to experiences like music camp, an invaluable opportunity to socialise with friends. I do not believe it is an accident that two of the friends that Jack still sees regularly (four years out of school) were fellow music students.

Their common interest in music continues to open up opportunities for Jack.

Click here to read the booklet (PDF)

Booklet

Building Belonging in the School Community:  Finding Roles that Help Students Become Known, Valued and Contribute

Community Resource Unit Ltd.

Cover of the booklet building belonging in the school community

Click here to read the booklet (PDF)

Article

The birthday party host

Jane Gilkes

Over the years Curtis had been invited to many of his class-mates birthday parties. We realised that to find his place among his peers he should be the host of his own party, just like everyone else had been.

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Video

Being Needed by the Pack

David Pitonyak

David Pitonyak talks about the consequences of growing up with the identity of “needy” and the importance of thinking about and developing ways that people can contribute.

Video

Al's Story

Family Advocacy

The video is about a young man and his family’s intentional efforts to see Al being involved in all aspects of school and community life.  Some of Al’s roles include son, friend, classmate, sports team member and graduate.

Article

In the Pool, on the Stage and at the Concert

Paula Kluth

“Being a full member of one’s school community is an important precursor to being a full member of the greater community and society. 

In other words, inclusion now inspires inclusion later and this alone is an important reason to involve all students in the pool, on the stage and at the concert.”

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Podcast

The Power of Social Roles in Creating Fulfilling Lives

Darcy Elks

Darcy Elks talks about the importance of social roles in the lives of families with a son or daughter with disability.

Article

Acceptance and belonging: the helpfulness of being in valued roles

Jane Sherwin

"Belonging is such a fundamental human need, and being accepted brings a sense of belonging... Belonging and feelings of deep acceptance are like being ‘home’ in a relationship.

There is a sense of comfort within the relationship, and a sense of being safe and secure."

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Article

Connecting People and Building Social Relationships

Deb Rouget

"Relationships stem from people not systems and increasingly people with a disability are immersed in options that are removed from the natural social contexts and situations that most people take for granted.  

...It is impossible for people to develop a range of social relationships without being present in the community and being recognised for their unique personality and contribution."

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Video

Creating Valued Social Roles

Family Advocacy

Supports Around 'Behaviour'

STUDENTS, LIKE ALL PEOPLE, WANT TO BELONG.  Humans are highly social animals who need to ‘belong’.  They generally try to avoid doing things that will lead them to be singled out and excluded. However, the desire to belong can be over-shadowed if a student’s primary or ‘core’ needs are not being met.  This means that behavioural outcomes can be greatly developed and improved by a teacher who considers the student’s perspective in trying to identify and address unmet core needs of the student.

All Means All Toolkit

For more information and resources see the Inclusion Toolkit for Parents by All Means All.

Video

Describing challenging behaviour

Ann Greer

Video

 Strategies we can use to support people

Ann Greer

Article

5 ways to support someone through a meltdown

Michelle Swan

Michelle Swan is an internationally known autistic Australian writer, speaker, resource developer, mentor, and neurodiversity rights advocate. She writes as a person with lived experience of what she describes as “the frightening, overwhelming, out of control experience of an overload induced meltdown.”

Here Michelle advises the best ways others can support someone experiencing a meltdown.

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Article

When your child engages in difficult behaviors… Notes for Parents

David Pitonyak

"Obviously there are many needs that your child might be expressing through his or her behavior.  A single behavior can "mean" many things. The important point is that difficult behaviors do not occur by accident, or because someone has a disability.

Difficult behaviors are expressions of real and legitimate needs. All behavior, even if it is self-destructive, is "meaning-full."

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Article

10 things you can do to support a person with difficult behaviours

David Pitonyak

Supporting a person with difficult behaviors begins when we make a commitment to know the person.”

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Video

Three Dangerous Words

Emma Van der Klift, Broadreach Training

When individuals act in ways that are defined as “behaviour problems”, they are often described as being “manipulative, “resistant”, or “seeking attention”.

Emma maintains that these words are usually a description of the support staff or teacher’s frustration and are unfairly used to locate the problem solely in the person requiring support.

Article

Rethinking Autism: Implications of Sensory and Movement Differences

Anne Donnellan, David Hill and Martha Leary

"As we have professionalized interactions with people with autism, we have trained professionals, parents and others to interpret what happens in terms of simple, binary views of behavior (i.e. good/bad or positive/negative), and to see behavior as controlled by immediate, situational antecedents and consequences.

When we focus on these socially constructed expectations for behavior and communication in our fast-paced, super technological world, we miss opportunities to know and understand people who may experience their existence and interactions in very different ways."

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Article

Exploring Accommodations: Some Things to Consider When Supporting People with Learning, Sensory and Movement Differences

Anne Donnellan & Martha Leary

We all use accommodations to get through daily life, but sometimes the personalised strategies that students with disability need are not available to them and instead efforts are made to extinguish what are wrongly labelled as problem behaviours.

In this article, the authors explore unhelpful and helpful assumptions about accommodations, explore accommodations which may be helpful to deal with particularly sensory needs or environments, and point to the importance of building relationships and respecting the accommodations that an individual has adopted.

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Website

Broadreach Training

Their Conversations that Matters resource is a library of videos by leading voices in disability rights

View the website here Opens in new window

Video

Autism as a Movement Difference

Anne Donnelan, Broadreach Training

Sometimes a child with a label gets seen as a having “behaviours” which are merely expressions of their differences.  This video looks at the dangers of not understanding differences, particularly where students miss out on the support and accommodations they need.

Video

Rethinking Behavioural Therapy

Lydia Brown, Broadreach Training

The disability rights movement slogan “Nothing about us, without us” is a great reminder for those trying to work with students with challenges of behavior.  In this video, Lydia Brown, a young disability leader challenges us to rethink assumptions of normalcy and a focus on compliance.

Poem

The Language of Us and Them

Mayer Levin

Resource

Functional Behaviour Assessment Tool

Queensland Department of Education’s Autism Hub

This online tool has been designed to help family members and professionals understand and effectively respond to and prevent frequent minor behaviours.

This tool prompts parents and educators to think about what occurs before and after the behaviour to understand what function or role that behaviour may have and what strategies may be useful to help reduce or replace that behaviour.

View the tool here Opens in new window

Article

Behaviour Support

Loren Swancutt, School Inclusion Network for Educators (SINE)

An overview of what is required to establish a supportive learning environment.

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Tool

Identify Stress Triggers - an identification tool

Do2learn.com

A self-reflection tool to help a student, and/or their parents and caregivers, identify their ‘triggers’ at school

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Resource

Schoolwide Zones Cheat Sheet

The Zones of Regulation

One common tool for students to learn to regulate their own behaviour is the Zones of Regulation, but sometimes school may not follow all of the recommendations, for example, being in the red zone should not be associated with shaming or punishment. The cover of the schoolwide zones cheat sheet.  It includes 5 'must haves' for schoolwide zones and the top 10 do's and don'ts.

Click here to read the cheat sheet (PDF)

Video

Positive Behaviour for Learning: Misconceptions, Myths and Missed Opportunities

Dr Shiralee Poed

In this lecture, Dr Shiralee Poed addresses some of the implementation challenges alongside potential solutions for anyone working in a school implementing PBL, or considering its application in their school

Building Emotional Well-Being

An image of grass with text on top that reads "one of the best feelings in the world is knowing that your presence and absence both mean something'. Credited to anon.

Emotional well-being is something that is often undervalued in people with disability by the wider community.  However, to be human is to feel, and while expression of emotional need will always be limited by a person’s communication skills, the emotion is no less real for the person.

Children with disability, especially those with limited effective ways of communicating, need those in the school community around them to be intentional in looking for signs/communications of emotional need, and to ensure emotional needs are recognised and met.

Most important for emotional well-being for every human being, is a sense of belonging.  Ensuring that students with disability are feeling the same sense of belonging, feeling connected, valued and respected as contributing members in and out of the classroom as much as their non-disabled peers, is a crucial first step to ensuring their emotional well-being.

Article

The Need to Belong: Rediscovering Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Norman Kunc

Norman Kunc is a Canadian disability advocate, well-respected writer and speaker, who was born with Cerebral Palsy.

I believe that the majority of educators would agree that it is tremendously important for a child to develop a sense of self-worth and confidence.

However, in our society, especially in the field of education, it has been assumed that a child's sense of self-worth can be developed from a sense of personal achievement that is independent of the child's sense of belonging. If we concur with Maslow, however, we see that self-worth can arise only when an individual is grounded in community."

Click here to read the article Opens in new window

Article

Relationships and community: The essence of life

Anna and Keith Coventry

Anna and Keith Coventry speak about how they build connections in their son’s life as he enters the later years of schooling.

"These relationships give meaning to his life; it is through these relationships that Will feels valued, has meaningful things to do and contributes to his community. We believe that a network of people around him will be essential in ensuring that Will lives a safe and fulfilling life.”

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Video

Being hard-wired for belonging

David Pitonyak

David Pitonyak reflects on the "social brain", being "hardwired for belonging" and the implications of loneliness and disconnection for people with disabilities.

Article

The Importance of Belonging

David Pitonyak

Click here to read the article (PDF)

Website

Australian Student Wellbeing Hub

Education Services Australia

This is a space for educators, parents and students to build safe, inclusive and connected school communities that promote wellbeing and learning.

View the website here Opens in new window

Video

2019 Children's Rights and Wellbeing at School Forum

Queensland University of Technology (QUT), various speakers

In this forum recorded at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in 2019, presenters look at ways of ensuring all children can actively participate in and experience inclusive education in practice, within an understanding that every child has the right to education without discrimination.

Click here to watch the presentations from this forum Opens in new window

This project is proudly supported by the Queensland Government through the Department of Education.

The Department of Education website outlines its commitment to Inclusive education through its inclusive education policy.

 

Community Resource Unit Ltd - CRU (logo) Bright colours expanding from central point with the words Community Resource Unit Ltd, Expanding Ideas; Creating Change