Publication - Advice and guidance

Supporting disabled children, young people and their families: guidance

Published: 24 Apr 2019

Guidance to help improve the experiences of disabled children, young people, and their families.

Contents
Supporting disabled children, young people and their families: guidance
Relationships

Relationships

In this section you can find out:

The content in this section was written with help and support from 18 young disabled people who told us what they want to know about relationships.  Our thanks to those young people for their honesty and help in shaping this section.  Some of the main points they wanted us to reinforce on this website are:  self-esteem; when to disclose their disability if at all; how successful or otherwise online or dating apps might be; an awareness that they may be more vulnerable to being harmed emotionally or physically; and knowing what to do in those circumstances.  The young people we spoke to wanted others to know that it's OK with them to talk about sex and relationships and felt able to ask questions about things they didn’t know or understand with another young adult people they know and trust.  Most of all the disabled young people we spoke to want to experience happy, respectful and healthy relationships by just being themselves. 

 Where can I go for advice or help?

There are many links we can take you to for information and advice on relationships.  Some of the most comprehensive information the young people asked for can be found on the one site, the Contact website - there are two really helpful guides one for young disabled people and another for their parents and carers.   These guides are filled with information about topics like self-esteem, making friends, peer pressure, sex, sexual health and relationships.   You can also access information through your social worker or support worker if you have one, or through the organisation you are part of, for example Enable, RNIB Scotland, Sense Scotland and National Deaf Children's Society to name just a few. 

Young people told us that they knew of other young disabled people who had found their relationship with their parents or carers a bit difficult when they started to ask about relationships.  If you feel that someone who isn't part of your family could help you talk with your family or carers, you might want to contact Cyrenians.

How are we helping young disabled people have the information they need to have healthy relationships?

There are different ways to meet friends and have relationships, some happen at school or college, or if you have a part time or full time job, you can sometimes meet people that way.  If you go to groups and activities with your friends, that's another place where you might build from friends to a romantic relationship.  It's OK just to be friends with people, you shouldn't feel pressured to have a relationship.  What the young people in our group told us is that they are less likely to search on dating apps or websites, this may be a route you wish to try but be aware that there are issues that apply to internet safety that you should consider when meeting someone you don't know.  

See the Internet Safety section of this site for more.

Childline have some really useful information on healthy and unhealthy relationships. Don't be put off by the name, this is also for young adults and applies whether you have a disability or not.  Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting education sessions take place in schools and will ensure all young people across Scotland have the information and skills to make healthy choices about sexual health.

What if I'm not in a relationship and I feel lonely?

If you have a support worker, social worker or you are involved with an organisation who have a specific interest in your disability, they may have some really useful connections to other young people who may also feel lonely. 

It's also ok to chat with people online, however it's really important that you are safe while you do this.   The Thinkuknow website has been developed which gives lots of really useful hints and advice.  There's also some information and a video called 'being loved or abused?'.

What should I do if I have concerns about a relationship?

There are many different kinds of what can be called 'harm' whether someone has a disability or not.  Our young people told us that they are aware that others may deliberately try to take advantage of them because of their disability. You can find videos as well as ways to be supported, in your area and information on what to do if you or someone you know is being harmed on the Act Against Harm website.

Where can I go for more information about LGBT+ relationships and coming out?

All of the information on this page is for LGBT+ people too but for information specially for LGBT+ people there is a lot of really helpful information on the LGBT Youth Scotland website. They also have information for parents, carers and family members of LGBT young people. Have a browse around their website, there's loads to check out including a guide to coming out. Our group of disabled young people felt that everyone has the same right to information about relationships however they identify, straight or LGBT+.

The Genderbread Person is a handy picture to help show how people can feel in different ways about their gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, sexual attraction and romantic attraction.

Helpful links - these sites are very helpful,  you can still use it even if it comes from a disability specific site.

Claire's story - Haggeye

My name is Claire and I am 22 years old. Four years ago I was diagnosed with bilateral optic nerve atrophy, arising from complications from my primary medical condition, hydrocephalus.  I lost the central vision in both eyes, leaving me with 2 small islands of peripheral vision.  Effectively, I lost my sight overnight and I am now registered blind.

It is impossible to put into words the devastating effects of such rapid sight loss.  I felt that my world was coming to an end.  One day I was standing on the threshold of all the excitement and enjoyment that comes with being young; the next day all my dreams and aspirations were shattered and I was plunged into a world of darkness – literally and metaphorically.  I was scheduled to sit my Highers and was confident that university beckoned, with a career utilising my love for languages to follow.

Initially, I was in denial, then I fell into despondency and then self-pity.  My school, were very supportive and my VI Teacher put me in touch with the RNIB.  From there it was suggested that I join Haggeye, the Youth Forum of the RNIB.  Attending my first Haggeye meeting in Glasgow, I had a palpable sense that my 'spark' was returning.  Speaking with young people and sharing my story with them and hearing about how they had been affected by sight loss, showed me that other young people, with greater challenges than I faced, were determined not to let being blind or partially sighted define who they were.

Through Haggeye, I made friendships, exchanged ideas, found empathy and built up my confidence.  I was put forward to represent Haggeye at the Scottish Youth Parliament and as an Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, I have acquired skills and developed talents that I did not know I possessed.  Haggeye has helped me find my voice and has given me the confidence to express my opinions and to fly the flag for young people living with sight loss.  As an MSYP I have addressed the Scottish Parliament, accepted a Scottish YouthLink award on behalf of Haggeye, sought to influence future government policy on disability rights and many other things.

Haggeye has helped me greatly towards my goal of achieving independence.  I have spent a weekend away from home and have started to take my first steps in travelling to Glasgow alone on the train.  These are modest ambitions for sighted people but for the visually impaired they represent huge obstacles that must be overcome before living independently can become a reality.  Haggeye has taken the first fledgling steps with me and I cannot express my gratitude for their support and encouragement.

There is an old saying that what fire doesn't consume, it strengthens.  I feel that I have passed through the furnace and, with the help of Haggeye – and the wider RNIB – I have become mentally stronger, more feisty, more comfortable and accepting of my sight loss and more determined to live life to the full.