In her first blog post last December, Henry’s mum wrote about Henry’s person-centred annual review.  Here, she tells us about the first time his Circle met together.


Written by Henry’s mum So we’ve done it!  Our first ‘proper’  meeting. I can’t believe it! Not long ago, I was sitting with other parents of disabled children at the Community Circle’s conference listening to people talking about their Circle.  It sounded good, in fact, it sounded great, but it sounded a long, long way from where we were. In a discussion session, we were asked to feedback one question about what we’d heard from each table and we chose ‘how do you start a Circle?’  I have to say this was the question that was on all our minds.  How do you start a Circle when you have a disabled child?  Who do you ask?  Everyone you know has a disabled child too, they’re busy, you can’t ask them! What if your family doesn’t live locally?  What if they’re not interested?   It’s all very well for these people with a Circle already, but how do I start one?

I vividly remember Helen Sanderson’s reply: “You can start a  Circle with two people: a facilitator and a person.” Well, in that case, we were ahead of the game!  We had four: Henry, Helen Smith – our facilitator, Andrew – Henry’s dad and me. Helen, Henry, Andrew and I talked about who we’d like to invite to be part of the Circle .  We managed to think of some people.  The first was Sarah, Henry’s sixteen-year-old sister, our daughter.  Sarah has been an advocate for Henry her whole life, she loves him, knows him really well and was an obvious choice for the Circle, and, thankfully, she said yes.  Who next?  We agreed we’d ask Adam, Henry’s Support Worker and best buddy, and Mark, who works as a learning disability advisor for the local authority.  I wasn’t sure if either Adam or Mark would want to come, but I felt much happier about a formal invitation from Helen as the means of asking them.  I would have found it really difficult to ask them myself, even on Henry’s behalf.  Knowing that they could say ‘no’ to Helen and not to me made it so much easier.

At our first meeting, we established the purpose of the Circle. We talked about the ground rules for how the meeting would be run and we began to tackle the meaty issues of how we are going to ensure that Henry has a good transition from school to beyond. And at the end of the meeting, Adam mentioned that his partner, Vanessa, who also works as Henry’s PA from time to time would like to be part of the Circle. In fact, she was a bit put out she hadn’t been asked.  I was taken aback!  In all my worrying about asking for people’s time, it hadn’t occurred to me that someone might feel left out and might want to be part of the Circle .  I hadn’t imagined that people would step forward wanting to be part of it.  Helen will be extending a formal invitation to Vanessa from the Circle and we’re all looking forward to her being there next time.

* all names are pseudonyms

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