Have you heard the buzz about natural supports? Maybe natural supports have been mentioned at a meeting at the school or with your child’s caseworker from Medicaid services. Natural supports add to the quality and richness of a person’s life. It is vital for a person with a disability to take full advantage of the natural supports in their life.
Natural supports are relationships and connections that come naturally while living life in the community. They can include family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and classmates. It can also include faith organizations, social clubs, volunteers, and community centers and events.
Simply put, natural supports are the supports that come from people who are not paid to be a part of a person’s life. They’re natural, real, and genuine.
Friends know and understand the needs and wants of a person. That makes friends a more powerful, meaningful support than someone who is paid to do the service.
Additionally, some families whose children live with disability believe that the only options for their loved ones are special activities created for people with disabilities. That is very far from the truth. People with disabilities can take part in community sports teams, typical events, activities, and other community programs. You don’t have to ask to be included or be invited in. If it’s open to the public, that includes people with disabilities.
For a person with a disability to take part in a community class or event may take some practice or training. It may take additional support. A friend or family member can provide support to an individual if needed. But the need for additional support should never be used as an excuse not to be a part of something. Being active in life and in the community will add fun and purpose to your child’s life. The friendships and memories that it creates are priceless. But the alternative is often a life of loneliness and segregation.
Are you taking full advantage of your child’s natural supports? Remember that natural supports are simply those things that are naturally provided in the community that grow into support and friendships. While they occur naturally, they do sometimes require some work and attention to grow into a successful support. It is the natural supports in a person’s life that add to the true quality of life.
For more on natural supports, take a look at the CORE of a Good Life from the University of Wisconsin or this article on Natural Supports from the TU Collaborative. There are many more good sites for natural supports, of course. Just Google for “natural supports.”