The Value of Community Connections
Community is a group of people who come together for a common reason. People may belong to several communities, some which are based on a common interest, others that are based on geography such as a neighborhood. People within a community may be very different from one another. Being part of a community brings people together, and people will learn that it is okay to be different. Positive and regular interactions bring a community together.
Just because you live in a community or attend activities in a community does not mean you are a part of the community. Are you part of a community if you never talk to your neighbor or participate in any of the events going in the community? It is the responsibility of the DSP to provide the supports a person needs to become part of the community.
Sometimes people are afraid of differences or the unfamiliar. Without intentional effort to involve people with disabilities in their communities, they risk being separated from everyday life by living in segregated facilities and attending activities designed only for people with disabilities. As a DSP, you must ensure that people you support achieve ordinary community lives by helping each one get involved in activities that they want to do and find valuable. Going out to ordinary places is the first step.
Think of places you like to go, activities you like to participate in, organizations where you have memberships. What would be the potential challenges for people you support to enjoy those same experiences? How could you help the person overcome those barriers?
There are three ways to be part of your community – presence, participation, and connection.
Community presence may include doing things in the community on a regular basis and being recognized by others who attend, but not really interacting with others. If a person is not there, they are not missed.
Community participation may include doing things in the community on a regular basis, knowing several people by name and having conversations with them about personal lives. The person does things at the event that others depend on and they would be missed if they were not there on a particular day.
Community connection may include a person being included in social gatherings outside of the primary connection, others recognizing and appreciating their contributions, and forming friendships that extend beyond the reason they are gathered. When a person is not there they are missed and people ask about them.
- A Guide to Developing Community Connections by Patsy Davies & Claudia Bolton
- Friends Connecting People with Disabilities and Community Members by Angela Novak