People naturally gravitate towards each other. Some of us meet people and form relationships easily and some of us take time to connect with a person. Some have a handful of core relationships in their lives and others have large networks of friends and relationships. The one thing that everyone has in common is the need for supportive relationships in their life. Circles of support are just that, a group of people who care about you and are committed to being in your life for a long time.
People with an intellectual disability are sometimes socially isolated and often spend a lot of their time alone with their parents or with paid support workers. Circles of support are meant to decrease the risks of isolation through regular social gatherings.
When I talk to families about circles of support they usually have lots of questions.
Below are some of the most common questions I hear.
Who can join a circle of support?
Members of your circle are people who you like and trust. Members should be mostly natural supports, meaning people who aren’t paid to be in your life.
What do circles of support do?
Members meet regularly to socialize, have fun, eat and enjoy each other’s company. Members support you to reach your personal goals, overcome barriers and plan for the future.
The role of NBACL:
Social Inclusion Facilitators can help you identify potential circle members and support you to invite them to your first meeting. Facilitators can coordinate a time that works for all members and even write up and circulate a list of your goals to share with your circle. Facilitators can help you run the meeting and keep the group on track.
How to invite people to join your circle of support:
This is up to you! Maybe you could ask someone over coffee or send them an invitation in the mail. The important thing is to ask.
I already have a lot of supportive relationships in my life so I don’t need a circle of support:
I hear this concern a lot, especially from younger people. Having pockets of support spread out over your life is great. But a circle of support brings all those people together into one room. It’s important for people in your life to know you but also know each other. For instance, it’s important for your best friend to know your aunt. If they know each other your circle of support becomes more cohesive and interconnected.
I don’t know enough people to start a circle of support:
A circle of support can be as small as 3 members: yourself and two other people. It’s ok to start small and build up your circle over time. A great way to add members is to participate in recreation activities and meet new friends. Once you’re comfortable you can ask them to join your circle.
I’m a senior parent, how could a circle of support benefit my adult son or daughter with an intellectual disability?
Senior parents often worry about what will happen to their son or daughter when they are no longer able to be their primary support person. They wonder “How can my son or daughter sustain their relationships themselves over time and have good people in their life who care about them?” A circle of support is the perfect way to rally a group of people around your son or daughter who care about them and want to be in their life for a long time.
– Erin Wilson