Young people with special needs and learning disabilities… never feel alone again


Today is ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’, which exists to raise awareness around the challenges and barriers that many people living with disabilities face. It’s a day to celebrate and promote the rights and well-being of these individuals in social, political, economic and cultural life.

With more than 7 million disabled people in Britain, it’s unfortunately all too common for them to be greeted with marginalisation, discrimination, vulnerability and exploitation. Sadly, the unfair treatment they face can cause the deep feeling of loneliness, especially in our young people, for whom socialising is such a key factor to their personal development.

A study reported by Mark In Style highlights that over half of those with learning disabilities commented that they feel lonely, this number rises to a heart-breaking 77% for younger people aged 18 to 34.

Loneliness can have extremely negative impacts on their lives effecting their confidence and social skills as they transition into adulthood.

Transitions UK are well aware how crucial it is for our young people’s mental health and wellbeing to feel like they’re a part of our community, engaging with others on a regular basis. Yet, the same study revealed the shocking fact that one in three young individuals with learning disabilities don’t spend more than one hour outside the house on a Saturday.

With exercise being such a key part of improving anyone’s mental wellbeing and feeling of belonging, this is a shocking statistic that requires addressing. Getting out and about allows for opportunities to socialise and feel included, which many young people with learning disabilities lack and struggle with.

It’s why we have created the Achieve Project. It supports these young people who live with special needs and learning disabilities, through our tailored 1-1 mentoring and befriending service. We guide them to independence and next step plans whether that be in education or through work opportunities. We have sessions that we run online and offline throughout Bedfordshire and North Hertfordshire, that provide the opportunity for our young people to get exercise and to socialise with an amazing group of beneficiaries, volunteers, mentors and staff.

Being part of Achieve allows for our young people to have structure in their lives, think about their futures and supports them in being valued integrated members of our community. We understand the needs of these individuals and focus our guidance on improving their social skills and personal development whilst getting them into further education or help into work placements.

For example, when we first met ‘Peter’, he was very closed: always sat in the same chair; didn’t talk and when he did, he whispered; he kept himself to himself and was really struggling since leaving college.  He was very afraid of taking on responsibility and turning 18 was very scary to him.

Over the past six months, he has started to form friendships with other beneficiaries, and his engagement in the project has seen him develop into a different person. He amazed us all in mock interviews with how well spoken and confident he came across. 

‘Peter’ is also obsessed with music. Through a Transitions UK supporter, he has acquired a workplace visit to Apollo Studios in Hertford where he will also be able to record a demo.

His confidence in himself has soared and we will feel he is moving in the right direction to have a secure independent future.

The feeling of loneliness and having the restrictions of not being able to go out and exercise have been magnified in the light of Covid-19, however, as we slowly retreat back to normalisation, we will continue to provide incredible opportunities, like we have for ‘Peter’, for the more vulnerable young people that live with special needs and learning disabilities in our community.