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A friendly interaction of a support worker and person talking at a pub.

Supporting Relationships
and Social Interactions

Diagram showing the 4 Essentials of Active Support.
Good relationships characterise Active Support

The 4 Essentials guide the type of support staff provide. How staff provide support and interact with a person are also important.


This means staff should:

  • Be respectful at all times

  • Create a friendly atmosphere

  • Create warm relationships

This video explains how to create a friendly atmosphere and warm relationships. 

Creating a Friendly Atmosphere

You can create a friendly atmosphere by:

  • Smiling

  • Praising or encouraging the person

  • Having moments of fun

  • Sharing a joke or laughing together

  • Making small talk

Take care:

  • not to overwhelm a person by talking too much

  • not to distract a person when they are concentrating

  • to recognise and respect when a person wants to be alone or in a quiet place


Warm Relationships

A friendly interaction between three people: smiling, listening, talking.

To create warm relationships it helps to:

  • know a person - their likes and interests, their sense of humour, and their style

  • spend time with a person

  • have shared experiences with the person  

  • identify shared interests. For example, a sport or team, TV show, type of music, pets, a hobby, or local knowledge.

Supporting Social Interactions with Community Members and Family

Supporting a person in a friendly interaction at a pool.

Relationships are important to quality of life.

  • There are different types of relationships

  • Some are close and long term

  • Some are casual acquaintances

  • Others are short term and fleeting

  • New relationships are made through social interaction

  • Existing relationships are maintained through regular contact

Staff can use the 4 Essentials to support a person to interact with people in the community, family and friends.


This video explains how to support a person in social interactions.

Look for opportunities to support social interactions - remember Every Moment Has Potential:

  • starting conversations with housemates or visitors

  • participating in community activities where there are other people

  • using technology to assist people to stay in contact with family and friends

Staff need to provide the right type and amount of support for social interactions - use Graded Assistance to Ensure Success. For example,

  • prompt a person to say hello when they see someone they know

  • introduce a person when they meet someone new

  • interpret or repeat what a person has said if others find it hard to understand

  • help a person to understand and respond if they are not sure what is being asked of them

  • help to start a conversation about something important to a person

  • fill in gaps in conversation


Finding the right support is important:

  • too much assistance can mean you do too much talking which leaves the person out

  • too little assistance can mean people don’t understand each other and the interaction breaks down


 This video shows effective support in social situations.



  1. What assistance was provided in the interactions?

  2. What do you think the interactions were like for the people involved?

  3. Was the right type and amount of assistance provided?

Communication and Active Support

A support worker assisting a person to put tacos on an oven tray.

Good communication is key to putting the 4 Essentials into practice.

It helps a person understand:

  • activities they might do

  • the options offered to them

  • how to participate  

  • what to expect

Listening carefully to the other person is also part of good communication.

Good communication helps a person to feel included and enjoy interacting.


This video explains what good communication looks like.

Paying Attention to Communication

You must adjust your communication to each person.


When communicating verbally, it can help to:

  • speak clearly and not too fast

  • use short sentences and words familiar to the person

  • give one message at a time

  • give the person time to understand the message

  • check the person has understood

  • restate the message using less words if the person hasn’t understood


Some people find it hard to understand words. You can use other ways of communicating as well as words to show a person what you mean. For example, you can use:

  • objects

  • gestures

  • facial expressions or body movements

  • pictures or photographs


Some people use key word signs – you will need to learn the signs they use.

A Yes/No communication device.

Some people use communication aids, such as:

  • chat books

  • yes/no buttons

  • picture boards

  • applications or programs, such as Pro lo quo on an Ipad

Access more training about good communication.

Adapting Equipment

When a person is engaged in an activity they often use equipment. It could be

  • an electric blender

  • a chopping board and knife

  • a potato peeler

  • a kettle

  • scissors  

Sometimes equipment can be difficult to use. For example,

  • on / off switches may be very small or hard to reach

  • it may need a very firm hold to use, such as a knife or vegetable peeler

  • a kitchen bench, sink or cooker may be too high for a person to reach

  • a milk carton is too heavy to hold

​Instead, they may need other equipment to make the task easier. Such as, chopping devices, chopping boards with spikes to hold things in place, non-slip mats.

You can purchase specialised equipment such as:

  • a big switch that a person can press to start any electrical device

  • a tipping kettle

Or you can think of ways to get around obstacles, such as

  • doing tasks at a table instead of a kitchen bench

  • put a small amount of milk into a cup

  • put a coloured sticker on a washing machine to show where to turn the dial

  • putting chopped vegetables in a small bowl to make it easier to transfer into a frypan 



  1. Can you think of examples of adaptive equipment that might facilitate participation in activities?

  2. Can you think of simple changes to make equipment easier to use?

  3. What adaptive equipment have you seen in the videos of this training resource?

Staff can create warm and friendly interactions as they support a person to be engaged. If they do this, the experience is more enjoyable for the person they support and themselves. Staff should recognise opportunities for a person to interact with other people. They should provide the right assistance to make social interactions successful. 

Communication is an important part of Active Support. When communication is tailored to the person it helps them to make choices, understand what to do and how to participate. Sometimes using equipment can make participation in activities easier. Specialist equipment can be purchased, or you can be creative using already available equipment or modifying how to do things. 


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