WWDSS Evening Speaker Series

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WWDSS Evening Speaker Series Presents: Building Circles of Support and Friendship


Presenter: Jan Burke-Gaffney is the author of “Building Circle of Support and Friendship, A Guidebook For Parents”.   She has two children who have Down syndrome and who have Circles that are thriving after 15 years.  Jan has been an advocate for people with developmental disabilities for 30 years.  She is a founder of the Hamilton Family Network, a parent to parent organization that works to provide resources and innovative strategies for families.   Jan has been actively involved in Community Faculty at McMaster University and with CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research.  She has been an advisor for creating Circles around the province.


Description:  This is a workshop designed for families who would like to learn more about the importance of Circles or networks of support for their family member.  The purpose of a Circle is to prevent isolation for our children and to safeguard them from negative experiences to bring them to positive ones.  We shift the focus to outcomes for families and communities based on deficits to those based on hope, belong and purpose.  We concentrate on inclusion, collaboration, working together to plant seeds of friendship for tomorrow.  A Circle is about putting your faith in people, people who care to make a commitment to your child by being part of an intentional group to help plan and advocate and be a friend.   


Circles won’t change everything overnight but they can be transforming over time.  They are a vehicle for change; they are a Wellness model that carries life into the future.  This workshop is a tool to help you get there.  Some of the topics we will discuss are:


  • The definition of a Circle and its core values.
  • How a Circle becomes a Brain Trust for parents
  • Belonging and contribution and how we see people
  • Vision focused on strengths
  • It’s about the person
  • Should staff be included
  • Do I need a facilitator
  • How do I find people
  • How to run a meeting
  • Guiding principles
  • Top ten tips

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