Your circle of connections may be big or small. They may live nearby or far away. They may consist of family members, ex-family members, neighbors or people you have worked with or have gone to school with. It looks different for everyone, but those are your people. That’s your network.
When you have a disability, building your own support system doesn’t come easily. A personal network of support is creating an intentional community for a person at risk of isolation. The model for personal networks comes from Planned Lifetime Advocacy (PLAN), a parent organization in Vancouver, Canada. The goal of establishing a personal network is to create a good life for your loved one, and you can start at any age.
Relationships are an essential part of life. Having a network of support helps create those connections. It gives the individual at the center a sense of independence and boosts their self-esteem, helping them make deeper lifelong connections.
A network of support not only benefits the person at the center but the parents and siblings as well. They no longer feel alone on their journey. It’s also rewarding for other people who join the network.
A network is not a paid group of individuals. They are people who genuinely care and want to give their time. Some examples of what network members might do are escorting your loved one out into the community or providing transportation to work or activities. They might serve as a mentor or provide supported decision-making. They may even handle financials or manage attendants.
The role can vary and can be big or small. If members in a network live long-distance, they may do something simpler like call every week or send cards. Networks may also change over time. There’s no concrete set of ideas or rules.
Texas Parent to Parent has created Texas Network Connections to help families create a Network of Support for their loved ones with a disability. There is a fee for this program which covers the hiring and training of a facilitator. A network facilitator can help get your network started by identifying possible members and they can help organize and sustain it.
Texas Parent to Parent felt so strongly about the idea of Personal Networks, they created a do-it-yourself manual. Texas Parent to Parent has helped build over 40 successful networks.