Celebrating Friendships during Lockdown this Learning Disability Week

15 Jun 2020

5 mins
Learning Disability Week 2020 (15-21 June)
Learning Disability Week 2020 (15-21 June)

Learning Disability Week (15-21 June 2020) is very important to us at Into Film, allowing us to highlight the particular issues but also achievements of young people with learning disabilities from across the UK. Last year for example, we celebrated the huge success of The Hollies - a Welsh specialist school for young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The week is organised by the UK's leading voice on learning disability, Mencap and this year is centred on 'the importance of friendships during the lockdown.' This is an especially pertinent theme for young people and as such, Mencap Ambassador Harry Roche has kindly written an article for us on the subject. Check out his brilliant testimony below, which delves into the importance of the week, his personal experience as someone with a learning disability and different ways of getting involved.

Everyone is having a tough time right now but lockdown has been even harder for the 1.5 million people with a learning disability, like me. Before this crisis, people with a learning disability already faced extreme levels of social isolation and loneliness - Mencap research shows that 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spent less than an hour outside their homes on a typical Saturday.

This Learning Disability Week, we wanted to show how important friendship is for people with a learning disability and show how people can stay in touch with their friends during lockdown.

A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which affects someone for their whole life and means that people take longer to learn new things, understand information and need support to do everyday tasks like cooking, managing money, doing shopping and taking part in activities or socialising.

Friendships are so important in breaking down barriers in society for people with a learning disability, reducing stigma and increasing inclusion. That's why we have been celebrating the friendships of people with a learning disability by sharing their stories about their best friend on social media.

Just like anyone else, we have interests that we want to share with friends. I am passionate about history and during lockdown I realised I shared this interest with a friend who helped me launch my new YouTube series, History with Harry. We had a lot of fun creating it together.

Technology has helped a lot of people with a learning disability stay connected during lockdown. It's hard not to see my friends but video chat has helped some people to stay in touch, and at Mencap we've also been adapting our programmes so they can continue to run online. 

During Learning Disability Week, we've been celebrating our programmes, like Gig Buddies, which brings young people with and without a learning disability together who have similar interests - whether that's gigs, bike rides or musical theatre. Gig buddies have not let lockdown deter them and have been continuing to meet virtually through online socials, quizzes and singalongs.

And well as Gig Buddies going online, we've also launched Mencap TV, a series of fun how-to videos, like how to cook, stay fit or dance, which helps people with a learning disability share their interests with others and try something new.

If you don't have access to technology, there are other ways to stay in touch. Gig Buddies have been posting letters and mix tapes to their friends who don't have the internet to talk to each other during lockdown.

Lockdown should not mean that people with a learning disability feel more lonely than ever. That's why we wanted to celebrate the friendships of people with a learning disability and show how, with the right support, people with a learning disability can stay in touch with their friends and maybe even meet new ones.

Find out more about 2020 Learning Disability Week and Mencap's programmes to support people with a learning disability to stay connected during lockdown on Mencap's website. And if you or someone you care for has a learning disability and would like to find out about opportunities to get involved in befriending activities, or if you would like to volunteer as a befriender, email friendships@mencap.org.uk.

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