Saturday, November 12, 2011

The importance of friendships - people with intellectual disability

Jack Dikian
November 2011

Aristotle in 384 BC talked about friendships and saw a friendship as the most important kind of relationships one can be involved in. A reason - you can choose your friend, unlike family. He goes on to say “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.”

His discussions on friendship reveal his fundamental view of human beings as social beings. Even if a man had everything else wealth, fame, virtue, and so on he still could not lead a happy life without friends. Today, we see friendships providing us with numerous important functions including companionship, stimulation, physical support, ego-support, social comparison and intimacy, and affection. It is, therefore, concerning when we contrast this with findings of studies reporting the degree of contact people with intellectual disability have with friends, and, in some cases family.

A CeDR Research Report (2008) by Eric Emerson and Chris Hatton, which was commissioned by Mencap1 analyzed information available from nationally representative data sources on the life experiences and services used by people with learning disabilities in England.

The report provides analysis on survey results for key factors such as accommodation, employment, education, families, friends, etc. for people with mild/moderate intellectual disability, severe intellectual disability and people with profound and multiple intellectual disability.

The survey collected information on the frequency of contact people had with their families, friends who themselves had intellectual disability and friends who did not have intellectual disability. Because the survey used items from the Millennium Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey14 it was possible to compare results with those of people who do not have an intellectual disability.

The table below shows the frequency of social contacts for people with mild/moderate, severe and profound multiple intellectual disability and people who do not have an intellectual disability.

The table from the original report uses the terminology “learning disability” as used in England.

1. Mencap is the leading voice of learning disability and works with people with a learning disability to change laws, challenge prejudice and support them to live their lives as they choose.

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