As we go to work, school, the gym, the grocery store or just walk around our neighborhoods, we often connect and bond with other people. These people are our friends, family, colleagues, mentors, or advisors. Within this group, we often build a community that can celebrate our achievements and support us when we need it throughout our lives.
It is often harder for children who have disabilities or special health care needs to build this kind of community for themselves. At the same time, it’s critical that our children have supportive people in their lives, especially for an only child. You can help your child connect to a broader community by setting up personal networks.
A personal network is a group of people who have committed to being in your child’s life. They commit to helping make sure your child is well cared for. And they benefit from this commitment by having strong relationships with your child, your family, and other network members who can enhance their own lives.
Texas Parent to Parent offers trainings and tools to help parents form personal networks for their children. This page has some ideas to help you if you are ready to get started building your personal network.
Networks can be small, with only 3 or 4 members, or they can be very large. Your list might be longer, but here are some ideas on who could be included:
One goal of a personal network is to form a community of support to help your child as you age and are unable to provide the same level of care you are used to. So, it’s good to think about including people in the network who are younger than you – and maybe even younger than your child.
There are many different options for what a network can do for your child and your family. It is different based on who is part of the network and, of course, on your child’s needs. Here are ideas from other parents on how they use their networks:
These are some steps other parents have used to build a network:
At first, many of us might feel uncomfortable reaching out to ask people to join our network. If that’s the case, you can work with a network facilitator, and Texas Parent to Parent can help you find one.
If you want a more formal support network for your child, you can also set up a microboard. A microboard is a nonprofit organization that is similar to a personal network but does a bit more. With its approved nonprofit status, the microboard can:
There are costs and legal forms to keep a microboard’s nonprofit status each year. Learn more about microboards by visiting the Texas Microboard Collaboration website. And Twogether Consulting offers services for setting up a microboard. Optional Tips/Quotes Header: Tips & Tools When setting up your network, a Letter of Intent (LOI) is a great training tool for everyone involved.