Listening to the voices of adolescents with intellectual disabilities: friendship experiences
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This qualitative study with a phenomenological approach explored the friendship experiences of adolescents with intellectual disabilities from their own perspective. Five adolescents with intellectual disabilities from Community Living Toronto were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide about the meaning, nature, formation, maintenance, and development of friendships. The interview questions were first pilot-tested with two adolescents with intellectual disabilities. The interviews were analyzed, and themes were identified. The findings indicated that these young people attached helping, trust, affection, intimacy, and companionship to the meaning of friendship. Participants identified friends as casual friends, best friends, buddies, and family friends. Adolescents with ID did not report intimate and reciprocated friendships with buddies and family friends. Disclosing secrets, personal information and feelings and receiving emotional support were limited only to relationships with best friends with disabilities, in their age group and from their classroom. Adolescents with ID indicated that they wanted more friends. The participants’ suggestions for friendship formation were to meet people, starting a conversation, and smiling. They also identified out of school contact, conflict resolution, and gift giving as the means for friendship maintenance. Giving help, having more contact, and secret sharing were suggested as strategies for friendship development from their perspective.