Thursday, November 7, 2019

A great way to help your child with disabilities: a circle of support

So if you haven't yet seen Intelligent Lives, it's streaming here for free till November 23. The film is a wonderful showcase for the abilities of people with intellectual disability. There was one moment that made me really curious. Micah, one of the young adults the film tracks, is sitting at a table and chatting with people. Viewers learn that it is a Circle of Support meeting comprised of friends who advise Micah on his work, academics and social life.

In the scene, which happens before he meets the family of a girl he likes, Micah is reminded that sometimes people like to be asked questions. This is something I'm working on with Max, who tends to get so excited telling people about his interests (Los Angeles, to be exact) that he forgets to ask them stuff.

I had to find out more about what a Circle of Support is, and director Dan Habib directed me to a document on the Intelligent Lives website written by Micah and his family. Micah and his parents first created his Circle of Support when he was in third grade; he started a new one when he began attending InclusiveU at Syracuse University.

"When I want to do new things, have fun or need help or a ride, or want to try skiing or yoga or just want to hang out with my friends, I know my Circle is there to plan with me or support me," Micah writes. "Sometimes I have to make important decisions, like choosing a new roommate or thinking about my future goals. I'm more confident because I know I can talk it over with my Circle."

A Circle of Support (also called Circles of Friends or Connections) can happen at any time of a child's life. They're often started by parents working together with school staff like a social worker, counselor or therapist. They're meant to be lively and fun, not tedious meetings—Micah and his parents consider them "a party with a purpose."

The Circle of Support can be created in steps. You make a list of people to invite then have a first meeting where you explain the basics. The group can include friends of the family but also people from networks that tie in to a child or young adult's passions and interests such as local businesses, places of worship, sports, community centers, social media and more. There are ideally some peers, too. People in the Circle can participate in various ways; one might get together to go to a movie with your child, another might offer transportation, for example.

Such a smart idea, right? It for sure takes a village to raise a child with disabilities, but having a Circle of Support is a whole other level of encouragement, inspiration and inclusion.

You can read more about starting a Circle here and at Micah's site Through The Same Door.

Photo: Intelligent Lives

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Thanks for sharing!

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