SafePlace — Meaningful Relationships Project

Meaningful Relationships Project

Three women holding bingo cards
Jennifer Lattig, Michelle Ball and Lou Ann Barsh with BINGO cards containing topics discussed in peer-group meetings about how to develop and participate in healthy and meaningful relationships.

  • Impact
    • Staff worked with 74 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who participated in 466 self-selected, integrated social and recreational activities in the community
    • 103 people with IDD participated in healthy relationships and personal safety skills education and regular peer support group meetings
    • Fourteen focus groups with 61 stakeholders were conducted to identify creative solutions to barriers
    • Two of the five project partners developed policies and procedures to increase their agencies’ abilities to support people with IDD to participate in individual integrated community activities

Statewide Need
Studies suggest that close, healthy, meaningful relationships can significantly improve how a person feels about quality of life, can contribute to better health, and people with severe disabilities may be less likely to experience abuse and/or neglect as a result. Many individuals do not have the supports needed to develop and maintain relationships. To address this issue, clubs and volunteer organizations can support full and equal participation by people with IDD and help them develop and maintain close, long-term relationships. With necessary supports, people with IDD can identify and express relationship-related needs and preferences and can establish healthy relationships.

Project Goal
Develop an ongoing, replicable project to help individuals with IDD develop meaningful relationships based on shared interests. Encourage partnerships between people with IDD, service providers, and other groups to provide educational workshops and discussions with project participants on interests, relationship barriers and solutions, healthy relationships, and safety. Create individualized action plans based on participants’ interests and provide technical assistance to disability service agencies to change their policies and increase supports to develop relationships.

Project Summary
SafePlace project staff worked with partner agencies to recruit a diverse group of adults with IDD to participate in the Meaningful Relationships project. Project participants attended small group educational workshops on healthy relationships, boundaries, safety, basic social skills, and other topics. Each person also created individual plans to participate in activities of their choosing community. Through the person-centered process, project staff created individualized action plans for building healthy relationships; identified resources and support needs; and set up timelines and processes to implement action plans.

Individuals were supported to identify activities, research where these activities could be done in their community, and participate in those activities. For many participants with IDD, this was the first time they had been offered the opportunity to explore their own individual social, recreational and leisure time interests.

Five peer consultants with IDD were contracted to help with the project. Focus groups were conducted to identify creative solutions to overcome barriers related to supporting adults with IDD in forming relationships through integrated and self-selected activities and social contacts with other community members.

The impact of this project grew beyond the people and staff who participated. Once the group of adults who participated starting sharing with their friends, housemates, family members, and day habilitation peers about the things they were doing or thinking about doing, many of those peers also wanted to participate in recreational and social activities in the community.

The project was promoted through healthy relationships and personal safety education, professional conference presentations, and train-the-trainer formats with project partners. An educational video with project participants about the importance of relationships and community activities in their lives was developed. SafePlace project staff documented project experiences, outcomes, and participant recommendations and developed a Replication Guide/Toolkit to promote project replication.

Project Period
Apr 2011 – Aug 2015

P.O. Box 19454
Austin, TX 78760

Geographic Reach
Austin-Travis County and Sequin-Guadalupe County

shape of state of Texas in blue with Travis and Guadalupe counties colored orange