The Core Work of Extend-A-Family

The core work of Extend-A-Family is about relationship.  Our relationships keep us safe and bring meaning and a sense of belonging into our lives.  Through relationship we often give most deeply of ourselves; however, most people with disabilities have fewer personal relationships in their lives.  It is not uncommon for people in our society to see the disability instead of the person and this prevents relationships from happening in natural ways.  This is a loss to both the person with a disability and a community who has not come to know the individual’s gifts and contributions.  Extend-A-Family coordinators step in to introduce people to each other who might not otherwise meet.  They base their introduction on shared interests and common goals. They understand and believe deeply that each person will benefit from the relationship.

Connecting with people

The Coordinator’s role is to recruit, connect and support the relationship between two parties.  This may be a relationship between two individuals, one of whom has a disability.  It may be a relationship between two families, one of whom has a member with a disability.  The frequency with which people get together depends upon the people involved.

Connecting with a group or club

The Coordinator may also connect and support a relationship between an individual and a group or club in community, such as Brownies, Scouts, sports teams, or youth groups.  These groups, whose members all share common goals, activities and interests, are natural places for friendships to grow.  The Coordinator supports both the connection to the whole group, as well as recognizing and encouraging individual relationships within the group.

Connecting in school settings

The Coordinator may help develop relationships within the school setting.  School is a natural place for friendships to grow.  Friendship circles are groups of children who are intentionally brought together in order to get to know each other and to build welcoming and inclusive school communities for all classmates.  The Coordinator facilitates circle meetings and encourages the group to plan time and activities together, and to explore the concept of friendship both in and outside of school.

Connecting with community life

The Coordinator may help cultivate a relationship among a supportive group of family, friends and neighbours who wish to ensure that an individual with a developmental disability is actively engaged in community life.  Support circles create opportunities for family and friends to come together to sustain and nurture, in as natural a way as possible, an individual with a disability as an active, contributing participant in the life of family, friends, neighbourhood, school, work, faith community and leisure environments.  It is neither a service nor a program but simply a process for supporting, learning and action over the long term.

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