I just attended the American Academy of Audiology conference in Columbus Ohio. While I do not like motivational speakers as a rule I did attend this year and was impressed. (And it was a good thing I did attend because I was surprised with the Presidential Award for service to the Academy and to the profession of Audiology. Very nice surprise).
The speaker this year was John Kane. He talks about loyalty. And while he was talking about loyalty he talked about what we need to do to make people feel supported.
Kane talked about what it takes to make us feel safe, to feel trust, and to feel connected. And by feeling trust and connection we can help people to do better work.
Circles of support
While Kane was talking about how to build these skills he was talking about how we develop social groups. Only people, bees and ants live in large social groups. We have lots of different social groups.
For me, my social groups include my immediate family, my extended family, old friends, newer friends, my close professional colleagues, my expanded professional colleagues, etc. I am part of these circles because they make my life feel safer, easier and better.
Circles of support for our families
So how does this relate to the work we do? The families we work with also need to have these circles of support. They will have some of the same circles of support I mentioned for me but, if you have a child with a disability, you need additional circles of support. Anyone who has had a serious illness or a family member with one knows that, in addition to family support, it helps to have support from people who have been there.
The circles that may be important to families may start off with the professionals who are helping them get started but will soon proceed to families of other children with the same disability – in our case, children with hearing loss.
Children with hearing loss also need support and it is essential that we do not forget them. Children who attend schools for the deaf have a built in circle. Children in mainstream settings need to seek out their circles because they may be the only child with hearing loss in their school. Audiologists and therapists can arrange circles for them by organizing groups. The LOFT program at AGBell is just such a group and children who attend end up with life long friends and circles of support.
Siblings and grandparents of children with hearing loss also need circles of support and we need to be sure to organize them for them. Some organizations like Hands and Voices offer this kind of support but not every community has a Hands and Voices. Just go to Facebook and you will find groups offering circles of support. Groups like Parents of Children with Hearing Loss.
In this age of internet many of us get our support on line. I wish it weren’t so because I really believe that face to face circles of support are better.
Organizing circles of support
Parents and clinicians all need to work very hard to be absolutely certain that our children have circles of support. Lives are very busy but a support circle is just as important as soccer, ballet, or anything else. If your community does not have support circles for children with hearing loss, build them. Find them, and make them survive.
One of my favorite photos is of a group of my old “kids” who were in group therapy together as very young children, who found a circle of support in that group and who continued to be in touch, Here they are many years later at the wedding of one of them. It was their circles of support that was a significant factor in them all being successful. They all have a lot of circles of support, but one significant one was this one.