Persons with special needs experience most relationships as a client or patient with a series of professional persons relating to them, usually one at a time.
Relationships of companionship, on the other hand, focus on mutuality. By learning to know each other as friends, we are able to learn from each other and help each other. The person with special needs feels safe and valued in the relationship and the person with more abilities is also able to learn and grow through the relationship by calling forth and naming the unique gifts in the other person. Companionship also extends itself into the community so that a client is turned into a citizen and friend.
Companionship is particularly important in dealing with persons with developmental disabilities and with mental illness. Foundational to this effort is cultivating a spirit of gentleness in our relationships.
Many persons need adaptations to their environment in order to eliminate barriers to the relationship. Planning is important so that the person is cared for even after parents or other natural caregivers have passed from the scene.
Therapy and education are particularly crucial in the early years of life, particularly for children with developmental disabilities. As adults, the issues of housing and work are more critical. (These latter two issues are listed under the Community tab.) In the final analysis, most of us increasingly face the fact of disabilities in the aging and dying process.
At all stages of life, it is important to recognize and grieve the losses that are a part of our lives, particularly for families facing disabilities and mental illness.