The Importance of One-to-One Friendships, By Lindsey Eaton

The Best Buddies mission is to create opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies has changed my life by giving me many friends and I am currently paired with my peer buddy Alexa Scudellari through ASU’s Best Buddies chapter. I first met Alexa last year during a Best Buddies AZ event and we hit it off. This year we are matched in a mutually enriching one-to-one friendship. We go to the movies,  to the Phoenix Zoo, to dinner with my family, and attend BBAZ events and ASU chapter events.  Alexa has met my family and as a result we’ve formed a strong friendship. We have become more best friends than best buddies since being paired.  We are hoping to be paired up through ASU’s Best Buddies chapter for the next three years while she is at ASU studying nursing.

As someone who has been impacted by committed peer buddies who want to develop our one-to-one friendship, I have some tips to share with you!

Host a disability awareness training for peer buddies: New peer buddies often don’t know to communicate or interact with people who have disabilities. Hosting a disability awareness training would allow Chapter Presidents to educate chapter members about people first language, how to communicate with people with disabilities and etiquette for interacting with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Parental engagement: Parental engagement plays an important role in Best Buddies friendships, even as the buddies and peer buddies get older. I am 21 years old and my parents are still involved in Best Buddies by meeting my peer buddy and by helping me make plans from time to time.

Below is a story that provides proof of the benefit of parental engagement.

In some cases, parental engagement can turn the parents of buddies and peer buddies into friends. Such was  the case for Nick Diaz and Michael Waz, a now former buddy pair from Higley High School in Gilbert, Arizona. Parental engagement turned the parents into best friends. The two were buddies for two years and won the Audi Spirit of Friendship Award during BBAZ’s Spirit of Friendship Gala the year before last.

mike and nick

State events hosted by state Best Buddies offices:  Best Buddies participants are encouraged to attend Best Buddies events that are hosted by their state offices. Across the states that have Best Buddies offices, Best Buddies staff members plan a variety of events such as Friendship Walks and Best Buddies prom dances. Buddy pairs are encouraged to attend events hosted by Best Buddies state offices to interact with buddy pairs from other schools and to see the Best Buddies mission at a state level. The Best Buddies chapter at Brown Deer High School in Wisconsin has had the largest Friendship Walk team for the Best Buddies Wisconsin North Shore Friendship Walk for two year as a result of a partnership they have formed with local Wisconsin small business, Eggers Imprints.

One-to-one activities: Best Buddies requires all buddy pairs to hang out two times a month, but many times buddy pairs will aim to succeed that commitment since they enjoy spending one-to-one time together. Buddy pairs often go to concerts, go shopping, eat pizza together, or hang out in their dorm rooms if they are in college. For many people with a disability, their peer buddy is their first true friend.

Be honest on your Friendship Update: Friendship updates allow leadership team members of a Best Buddies chapter to learn about friendships that are struggling and how they can work with those buddy pairs to develop stronger friendships. They also help identify successful buddy pairs who are developing strong friendships through their Best Buddies chapter. Friendship updates are usually completed by the peer buddy but I often complete my friendship update for Alexa and I. The person completing the Friendship Update is encouraged to utilize the empty text box  to share any memorable contacts and activities or any struggles they had trying to reach their buddy/peer buddy.   Don’t forget that Best Buddies International has launched a mobile Friendship Update website: Best Buddies Friendship Update mobile! The login process is simple. The person completing the update on the mobile site must follow the following steps

  1. Login with his or her email which was used to register for Best Buddies and use the password they registered for Best Buddies with.
  2. Once logged in, they select either contact or activity type and enter the details

Highlight exemplary buddy pairs: Many Best Buddies chapters have launched Buddy Pair of the Month recognition programs. For example the chapter at the University of North Florida highlights buddy pairs of month through a Friendship Friday series on their Facebook page. If a chapter wishes to start a Buddy Pair of the Month recognition program, there are many different options for how they can highlight outstanding Buddy pairs. They can post pictures of the selected buddy pair on their Facebook page or in their Facebook group and once they post a picture they can type a short paragraph about why the buddy pair is outstanding.

Create a carpool system or get to know public transportation:  It’s important that you choose the transportation option that is best for you and the group of people you are driving. Carpooling helps multiple people get from point a to point b on time while helping the environment by cutting down on pollution levels. If your chapter is big, you should ask around to see if more than one peer buddy or officer can drive people to the event.  Public transportation is often times harder to navigate as a result of having to know your final bus stop or light rail train station. You also run the risk of the bus or train being late and you and your buddy being late to the chapter event or meeting. Also with public transportation such as the city bus, you have to have exact change since you don’t get change back.

If a chapter wishes to carpool, they should encourage members to drive together to chapter activities or events hosted by their state office. The Best Buddies chapter at  Washington-Lee High School in Virginia often meets in the senior lot before they go to a Best Buddies Virginia event so they can carpool together.

Patience is key when understanding and developing  your one-to-one friendship: Like any friendship, friendships formed through Best Buddies take time to develop. Many Best Buddies friendships develop over two or more years!  It took me two years to really develop a strong one-to-one friendship with my peer buddy Elaine Helton while attending Chaparral High School.

lind and elaine

Group (chapter activities): Best Buddies chapters are required to host at least  three chapter events per semester Chapter Presidents should note the successful events they hosted so they can continue to host those events in the future. Chapter events can include: bowling, a movie night, a Halloween Party, a Valentine’s Day dance, and an awareness basketball game where you play another Best Buddies chapter in basketball.

The Best Buddies chapters at Warren Central High School and North Central High School in Indiana recently played each other in a Best Buddies basketball game during halftime of the game at  North Central High School. This basketball game allowed buddy pairs to spread awareness about Best Buddies while playing on the basketball game.

warren

Follow through on your commitment with your buddy:  As a peer buddy, you’re encouraged to follow through on your commitment to your buddy and plans you make with him or her. As my friend Ashlee Coffman said in her Buddy Ambassador speech at Leadership Conference 2014’s Closing Ceremonies, “It’s important to follow through on your commitment with your buddy since your buddy might not be asked to do very much outside of school. Buddies often remember their activities with their peer buddy for a while.”

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