A Job, a House, a Ride, and a Friend

I do a fair amount of retreats with family members who have a son/daughter, or grandchild with a disability. These retreats focus in on how human service programs can be more helpful to them.

Most of the time when I do this type of session I start by asking folks what they want for their child - what would be helpful, or what was missing from their child’s life. There are a lot of reactions to this question, but by and large, I can categorize these wishes into five categories. One is the higher order wishes such as health, happiness, safety and security.

The other are more tangible and they always include, getting a job (or having meaningful things to do), a place to live, adequate transportation, and lots of friendships. In fact, families report that their child is often lonely, and socially isolated, and this request (friendships) often gets the most votes of all.

In a way, these wishes from families who have children with disabilities, are really ones we all have for our children. All these things, safety, happiness, jobs, homes, rides and friends, are things we all want, not just for our children, but for ourselves as well. They are universal aspects of life.

And I believe, at the core of these wishes is just one variable - friendships. Social capital theory shows that most of the good things in life are tied to our relationships. So if you have some connection to human services, look at the things your agency does, and make sure that relationship building is something you offer to these families. If not, consider how you can add this to the mix.

The more people are connected, the better their lives. Think about it.