On Wednesday night we had the first meeting of Moose's Circle of Support. I wrote about this a while back. It was an amazing experience. One of the many things Wife and I recall from our wedding was the incredible feeling of support we felt from our families and friends who gathered from all over the country for the event. In many ways we felt a similar feeling the other night when the Circle got together for the first time.
Similar to the wedding invite list, it wasn't easy to determine who we wanted to invite to the circle group. Many of our good friends are not in this group, and it was tough to make that decision. But we wanted the members to have developed a good relationship with us AND with Moose. There are a couple of exceptions to this. A woman at our church has a 40-something-old son with Autism. She doesn't know Moose very well, but her words have always been inspirational to us. She raised her son here in SCT, so we figured she'd be an interesting addition to the group. She was true to form in the meeting: truly inspirational! About 18 people came to the first meeting, and the ages range from 14 up through about 80. Really fascinating group of people.
What's been sticking with me is this picture and the meaning behind it:
We ALL have circles like these around us. The first circle represents those closest to us, like our close relatives, our partner, or our very closest friends who know all the deep secrets about us. The second circle is our group of friends. The third circle represents the activities in which we participate; for me this is my church choir, the office where I work, organizations I belong to, and so forth. The fourth circle consists of those you pay to be in your life, like our doctors, dentists, the plumber, the dude I need to hire to clean my second-floor gutters this fall...
So who's in your second circle, and even in your first? How did you meet them? Aside from your family members, you met your people in your third circle: the things in which you can participate.
For an autistic person where social skills are comprised, the ability to join in a third-circle participatory activity is compromised as well. How will Moose make friends? Will he date? Who will hang out with him? And MUCH later on down the road (hopefully), who will join his circle of intimacy after Wife and I die? Well, let's face it, he would have to rely on Circle 4 folks: those we'll pay to help him out along the way. That's all well and good, but his caregivers will want to go home at the end of the day and be with their own circle 1 and 2 people, so where would that leave Moose? What kind of life could he lead?
The main point of the Circle of Support, therefore, is to help create a life of better quality for Moose. It's to create a group in which he will be able to participate, eventually. It's to help him build up that crucial Circle 1 and 2. And, frankly, it's going to allow Wife and me to maintain a Circle 2 ourselves. There are times we feel our closest friends are Moose's caregivers, because they "get it." But we realize the more friends we can have on board in this circle, the more they will "get it" too. And that will make all the difference for us, and for Moose.
We are blessed with a fantastic facilitator, a woman who has been part of numerous types of these Circles for many years. She anticipates our questions and can go with the flow no matter what happens. And the funny thing is: she already knew four or five of the members in our Circle, mostly due to personal friendship connections and not just her own professional ones. Amazing, the coincidence of that! She's quickly becoming a good friend to us.
So it was a very big, very emotional evening, and we're excited for all the possibilities. The group will meet only about once per quarter, but we'll keep in touch regularly via e-mail and our every-day lives. I'm not sure we'll ever want to move away from SCT, since this Circle of Support would take years to create in a new town. We feel like we're in the right place at the right time. Not quite sure how that happened, but I'm not going to question it one bit!