I first met Sterre 10 years ago, when I was 25. My brother and I became friends with Sterre, and doing drama group together on Saturdays brought me and Sterre closer. We go swimming once a week and we do lots of other things together.
I knew straight away Sterre couldn’t really talk, but I was prepared. I learnt some sign language when I was a kid with my brother, and at my first job.
You just have to remember it’s still talking – I communicate with Sterre like I would talk to our other friends, just in a different way. It actually made me and Sterre closer, and I think it is one of the reasons we’re best friends now.
I am a very outgoing person, and I enjoy going out with friends. Sterre and I share friends together, like Jamila who is my flatmate and friend. Then there’s Jade, who is also a friend. Every Friday night we have dinner at each other’s houses and then on to the pub, and we have a lovely time.
The three of us also go on holiday sometimes. This year we are going to Amsterdam, which is where Sterre comes from.
It can be harder to make friends if you have a learning disability, but it’s not the same for everyone. I have Down’s syndrome and I have lots of friends and I lead a happy life.
Sadly a lot of people with a learning disability do not get a chance to make friends and that is why Learning Disability Week this year is about friends and relationships.
It is harder for Sterre when she meets new people, but she teaches sign language to people with her Signalong book.
It is important to have friends, because it gives you someone to support you in life, someone to catch you when you fall. You need someone to talk to talk to who aren’t your parents, or your brother or sister.
My life would be so much harder if I did not have friends. I always need someone to talk to about life, my concerns and how I’m feeling. I think Mencap should be talking about friendships and relationships all the time, it’s so important.
Here is my advice for making friends with someone who has a learning disability: treat everyone the same as everyone else. We are all people, with or without disabilities, we just sometimes need to make more effort to help everyone to understand. That’s how you make friends with people.