That’s What Friends Are For

Part of an everyday life is seeking connections with others in our world, we all strive to be a part of something bigger. Building friendships in the intellectual and developmental disability population is crucial for promoting social inclusion, enhancing well-being, and improving overall quality of life.  These relationships provide opportunities to improve social skills, practice ways to interact, and boost self-confidence. *  Studies have shown that “friendship predicts improved outcomes in almost every area of one’s life.”**  It’s been noted that “people with IDD often have fewer opportunities to create and maintain friendships” *** so here are some strategies for fostering friendship building:

Remember, building friendships takes time and effort. It is essential to provide ongoing support and opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to cultivate and maintain meaningful friendships. By creating inclusive environments, promoting social skills development, and facilitating social interactions, we can help individuals with intellectual disabilities form strong and fulfilling friendships.

*The May Institute: Helping Individuals with Special Needs Develop Friendships:,%2C%20and%20boost%20self%2Dconfidence

**Friendship, Quality of Life, and People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities:

*** What Do NCI Data Show About Friendship and Life Outcomes for Adults With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities? By Stephanie Giordano, Dorothy Hiersteiner, and Elizabeth Pell:  

  1. Encourage participation in inclusive activities: Provide opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to engage in inclusive activities and programs alongside their peers with and without disabilities. This can include joining community clubs, sports teams, art classes, or social groups where they can interact with others and build friendships based on shared interests. Here are a couple of lists of available activities/opportunities in and around Philadelphia:  or
  2. Support social skills development: Offer social skills training and support to individuals with intellectual disabilities to help them navigate social interactions and develop effective communication skills. This can include teaching/role playing how to initiate conversations, engage in active listening, and understand social cues and non-verbal communication.
  3. Create inclusive environments: Foster inclusive environments in schools, workplaces, and community settings by promoting acceptance and understanding. Encourage others to embrace diversity and provide support to individuals with intellectual disabilities in social situations. This can help create an inclusive atmosphere where friendships can thrive.
  4. Facilitate peer mentoring: Engage peers without disabilities to act as mentors or buddies for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This can involve pairing them up for activities, encouraging them to spend time together, and providing support and guidance for building friendships. Some examples of mentoring programs are Best Buddies of PA (

  5. Organize social events and group activities: Arrange social events and group activities specifically designed to bring individuals with intellectual disabilities together. These events can provide a safe and supportive space for them to interact, make connections, and develop friendships. It can include game nights, outings, or themed gatherings that encourage socialization and bonding. or

  6. Educate and promote awareness: Raise awareness about intellectual disabilities and the importance of friendship building within the community. Organize workshops, presentations, or awareness campaigns to educate others about the abilities and strengths of individuals with intellectual disabilities. This can help reduce stigmas, foster understanding, and promote inclusivity.