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Start where the young person is at

Trusting relationships and authenticity are essential to generate positive outcomes with young people. While many young people you work with will be open and engaging, there may also be young people who lack trust in adults or have fears about disclosing information. It is therefore critical you start your engagement with where the young person is at. In order to understand the barriers to building rapport with young people, demonstrate you can be trustworthy and reliable, highlight their strengths and use language that is non-judgemental and appropriate for their age and ability.

Gather as much information as you can in relation to the impact a young person’s disability has on their functioning (for example how they best communicate, process information and any limitations they may have). This will give you a starting point to adapt your approach to meet the needs of the young person when developing rapport. Refer to identify a child’s disability or developmental delay for more information on identifying and understanding a child’s disability.

Key issues for young people

Without intervention and targeted support, young people with disability are more likely to face social, economic and civic inequalities. For many young people, exclusion, isolation and abuse as well as a lack of educational, housing and economic opportunities are daily experiences. When working with young people who have a disability, ensure your practice offers them equal opportunity to be involved in all decisions affecting their lives now and into the future. 

Navigating adolescence is difficult for many young people and these difficulties can be compounded for those with disability. Young people with disability deserve education and support regarding friendships, puberty, sex and relationships, drug and alcohol use, and other important issues that will impact their life now and in the future.

In the following TED Talk video, Australian Paralympic tennis champion Dylan Alcott talks about what it was like growing up with a disability, including the way he thought about his disability then, and now.

The Truth About Growing Up Disabled

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