A social network is important because it helps individuals to connect with one another, have fun, and be in discussions. When connecting with a social network, we form supportive relationships that are there for us when we need them. Socialization reduces isolation and depression. Social networks include all kinds of people. Social networks can even include disagreement with others. Disagreements are healthy and are OK. They help broaden our horizons.
Increasing socialization for youth with disabilities is even more important because they have not become adults yet. They need to focus on pursuing their own interests and socialization. Some youth with disabilities may not have experience socializing in the community or may have been hurt by an interaction. They cannot accept the status quo; it is important that they know there is a more comfortable way to get socially networked. It starts with understanding who we are as individuals. Some youth with disabilities need full support in the community including with socializing. For these individuals, maybe just being in the presence of another human being is enough. Social networking does not have to include talking or listening, depending upon a person’s disability. Some youth with disabilities need a catalyst to boost their confidence for socializing. Some youth with disabilities can do it on their own with full self-determination.
When trying to form a social network, youth with disabilities may be reluctant to do so for various reasons including past disappointment or feeling like they don’t fit in. As a result, relationships may have become divisive. It is important that youth with disabilities do not focus on divisiveness but focus on building bridges.
In order to build bridges, when youth with disabilities form social networks, whether on their own or with a catalyst or facilitator, they should give it a chance. They must remember that they are the ones who set the tone of their relationships and choose their own friends. They set their own boundaries. They set the rules. They set what works for them. They can use whatever supports work best.
Remember — the social network you create evolves. Some people are only there for a season, while others are there for more. Independence and self-determination allows you to choose how you want to socially network with others. Move forward with whatever social network works for you!