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Preparing for adulthood – friends, relationships and communities


Young people with SEND say that while employment, independent living and housing are important, having friends and good social lives is the most important part of their lives.

Young people with additional needs and disability alongside their non-disabled peers have the right to choose to:

  • have relationships
  • marry and become parents
  • be included in community spaces
  • be included in social groups

It is important that young people with SEND feel included in the kinds of settings and activities; work, college, clubs, leisure centres, religious settings, where they can make and maintain relationships.

Local services like sports centres, libraries, cinemas, restaurants and shopping centres should be accessible and feel welcoming offering a range of appropriate activities.  

Schools and education settings offer opportunities for young people to meet regularly, develop friendships and feel part of a community. It is important that young people are able to continue to access opportunities when they leave education settings.  

Most people develop friends when they are young often with people who live nearby or who they go to school with. Lifelong friendships with a small number of people often begin we are young.

Barriers to following a pathway into adulthood similar to that of other young people must be understood, and strategies put in place individuals and organisations to overcome them.

Having friends, relationships and being included in the community is and important part of person-centred transition planning. 

Here a parent talks about how the family planned for and helped maintain friendship groups for Wilf. 

Limitless (previously known as Hackney Village) is a regular Summer Project for young people with additional needs and or disability. By taking part in the project the young people meet new friends and work with professionals to develop and performe their own show. 

Find out more: Hackney Village Summer 2017

Around the age of 14 most young people start to develop more independent lives through relationships with friends at school and in their communities.

Where this does not happen for young people with disabilities it is necessary provide support them to achieve fulfilling active lives.  

The year 9 transition review meeting should explore what is important to the young person.

Families can be concerned that their son or daughter may become socially isolated.

Page last updated: 04/11/19

Circle of Friends

One of the most effective ways of supporting young people of any age with this aspect of their lives is to develop a Circle of Friends.

A Circle of Friends can include classmates, young people who live in the neighbourhood, siblings, relatives, family friends and support workers.

Including Everyone - short film

Success in this area of your life means you have:

• some close friends

• know lots of people

• are part of a social group

• know how to stay in touch with people

• people know how to stay in touch with you

• you have opportunities to meet friends regularly

Direct payments and personal budget can support a healthy and active social life

Annual Reviews and transition planning

Year 9

Year 9 transition reviews should explore what is important to the young person.

The following questions can help to think, plan and ensure this is happening:

  • Are extended school, after-school and summer activities inclusive of young people with learning disabilities?
  • Is support available to make sure that they can participate?
  • Are young people with learning disabilities taking part in all local activities alongside non-disabled ones?
  • Are they going out with friends?
  • Is appropriate support offered to access youth service?
  • Are schools supported to develop Circles of Friends?
  • Are young people with learning disabilities represented on the local youth council?

Clear actions need to be set at the review meeting, so that the young person and their family know who will be making sure that things happen.

Being in the same place as other young people from their community, at the same time and doing what they do. Attending youth clubs, having Saturday jobs, using playgrounds or simply ‘hanging out’.

Planning needs to involve having conversations that include the young person and looks at risks.

  • What can be put in place to minimise risk?
  • What are the risks that all young people face?

 Do the families and services working with them understand how young people’s social networks work and how to support these?

Is transport available and accessible?

Are personal care spaces available in youth clubs and social centres?

Young people and their families need to be given good accessible information about how to take part in; sports, arts, youth and other activities with support if necessary.

If a young person has a direct payment or personal budget, it is important that they understand and plan how this could be used to meet up with friends and go out together.

Year 10, Year 11 and beyond

During all reviews in Year 10, Year 11 and beyond continue to ask the above and develop plans to make the friends, relationships and community inclusion a robust area of a young person’s EHC plan or transition planning.

What can young people and parents do?

Planning can feel overwhelming. It’s not always easy and can be difficult to find the time and energy to explore different options when you are already providing day-to-day care and support.

Involving other people helps to keep you going.

What can young people do?

Think about what you enjoy doing with your free time.

Write down some examples of these.

Make a plan of what you are going to do, when you are going to do it and choose who to do it with. 

Use social media safely to stay in touch with other people.

What can parents and carers do?

Plan for the future. Some young people with disability find change difficult and need it to happen gradually.

Have more people involved in your young person’s life. Develop a Circle of Friends.

When friendships go wrong help young people understand that this is part of understanding other people’s behaviour and understanding yourself? People argue and fall out and then they make up. Talk about when this has happened before and what put it right again.  

Talking about difficult subjects

Using the internet and social media to stay in touch and arrange outings with friends is easy and normal. Get information about staying safe online.

Don’t be scared to talk about and ask for information on issues that affect all young people like understanding issues related to alcohol and drugs.

Don’t be scared to talk about and ask for information on issues that affect all young people like understanding issues related to alcohol and drugs.

Talk to other young peole and their families

Talk to other families who have been through the same stage of life and have experience of developing friendships and groups of friends.

  • What activities did they take part in?
  • What clubs do they go to?
  • What were they worried about?
  • Did anything go wrong?
  • What did they do?


Find out what support there is to pay for activities

Check you are getting any benefits that you are entitled to that may help pay for activities.

If you get Short Breaks plan how to use your budget to meet up with other people you know.

If you have a Personal Budget plan how to use your budget to meet up with other people you know and do thinks that help you meet more people.

Ask for help managing your budget and finding out about activities if you need it.

Don’t feel you have to do it alone.

Other useful information...

Foundation for People with learning Disabilities

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities is part of the Mental Health Foundation, which is a charity. They believe that people with learning disabilities should have the same rights and choices as everyone else in society.

Who we work with:

  • people with learning disabilities
  • families
  • carers
  • local authorities
  • service providers

The FPLD help to make things better for people with learning disabilities. You can find useful resources on their website including information resouces like: Leisure opportunities for children and adults with complex health needs and/or limited mobility

 FPLD is based in London but works with people all over the United Kingdom.

Phone: 020 7803 1100




Circles Network

Circles Network is a UK wide voluntary organisation known for building inclusive communities on the foundations of justice, advocacy, empowerment and friendships.

They work with people of any age who are isolated or at risk of isolation and have expertise in the development of circles of support, independent and collective advocacy, Person Centred Planning and inclusion.

The Hub, Circles Network, The Penthouse, Coventry Road, Cawston, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9JP

Phone: 01788 816671



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