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Conference 2011

Friendships, networks and learning disabilities: friends' stories and stories about friends

Held on 12th and 13th July 2011 at The Open University, Milton Keynes

Day one - 12th July 2011

Morning session

Liz Tilley and Daniel Docherty (co-chairs)

Working together, making friends
Zoe Hughes

Friendships between 'staff' and 'service users' have had a chequered history. Many services for people with learning disabilities have encouraged different approaches to such friendships.
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Uniting friends with Woodbine
Deborah Williams

Over the course of a 12 weeks project, 'Uniting Friends' and 'Woodbine' will be asked to share some of their memories of past friendships and the emergence of new relationships.
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Twenty-one years of working together: a history of Central England People First and our friends
Central England People First

We are Central England People First an organisation run by, and for, people with learning difficulties. We have been running since 1990 but not always with the same name or in the same place.
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Having friends - they help you when you're stuck
Liz Tilley and the Money, Friends and Making Ends Meet group

We are a group of people with a learning disability who do not receive any formal services and are part of an inclusive research project in Sandwell, West Midlands. We have all known each other for years and support each other when we get stuck with things.
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Afternoon session


Friendships and adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities in England disability policy
Rachel Hughes

My presentation is about how friendship and people who have profound and multiple learning disabilities have been written about in Government disability policy documents since 2001. We usually think of friendship as one of the good things in life.
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Making and keeping friends - has it got any easier in the last 20 years?
Catherine and Johanna de Haas

Johanna and I are a mother and daughter team, supported by PAs. Johanna communicates without words. (She is the one with the dark hair in these photos). We would like to talk about our experiences of making and keeping friends during her lifetime.
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Friendships across a boundary
Mabel Cooper, Gloria Ferris and Jane Abraham

We want to share our experiences of friendships across boundaries which were defined by our life experiences. Both Mabel and Gloria spend part of their early life in St Lawrences Hospital, Caterham. This was one of the large institutions that was "home" for people with learning disabilities in the 20th century.
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My views on and experiences of finding, keeping and losing friends
Josh McDonagh

I will be talking about my friendships from pre-school through my school years until today, when I am hoping to start university in September.
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Day two - 13th July 2011

Morning session

'Guy don't need no sense to be a nice fella'. The friendships of people with learning disabilities as depicted in the novel and short story from 1841 to the present day
Simon Jarrett

Friendships are part of what defines us as people. Without at least someone in our life who knows us, understands us, likes us and simply values us for who are we are, an important part of our humanity is lost.
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The revenge of 'Billy no-mates'
Daniel Docherty

When I was at college in Manchester I was studying basic skills in a mixed class. The people in the class called me 'Billy no-mates'. I didn't have the mechanism to just go up to people and make friends with them. It was okay in class because of being busy, but it was difficult at lunch times and outside of college.
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Discovering our heritage and making friends
Changing Our Lives

Hidden History was a project led by young people with learning disabilities. We researched the history of people with learning disabilities dating back to early 1800s. We interviewed people who had lived in the long stay hospitals and staff who worked in these settings.
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Experiences of friendship of young people with learning disabilities at the transition to adulthood
Natalia Postek

The paper is situated in a research project at the Department of Education at the University of Vienna. The project, Vocational Participation of Persons with Learning Disabilities, tries to analyse the experiences of participation of persons with a learning disability in vocational life and in the transition phase from school to working life.
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Afternoon session


Friends in my life
Catherine Evans

During my early days at school I was often laughed at because I wore glasses and had problems with my speech. I had to wear glasses because I suffer from keratoconus and also had problems with my speech as I also suffer from congenital cerebellar syndrome.
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Friendship in the lives of eight adults with learning disabilities
Gillian Allan

It is proposed to present the findings of a PhD study with the title ‘An exploration of the meaning of friendship and barriers to friendship formation for adults with learning disabilities’. The PhD is due to be completed this year. The fieldwork took place between February and December 2010 in a major Scottish city. It is made up of a series of interviews with eight participants.
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'We told each other secrets when the lights went off' - Stories from Craig Phadraig Hospital and People First
Karrie Marshall

This presentation has two parts … the first being a collection of memories gathered during a comprehensive Story Project in 2009, from people who lived in Craig Phadraig hospital in the 1970s and 80s. They recall their friends, and some of the things they did together.
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Final reflections and close of conference
Liz Tilley, Daniel Docherty and Ian Davies

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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