How can I develop a support network?
Developing a support network is a key element to successful transition for individuals with disabilities. A support network refers to the people in your life that help you achieve your personal and professional goals. These people can help you transition to college and learn about careers, disability issues, and self-advocacy. In high school, this group may include family members, friends, and teachers.
There are many ways to develop a support network. A good first step is to recognize the supports that are already present in your life — friends, family members, and teachers. Create a list of the people you know and the strengths and contacts they have to offer you. One person may be an excellent resume writer, another may be a great listener who can help you clarify goals. Create a list of people you would like to meet. Attend events that put you in touch with people who can support your personal, educational, or career development. Such events include career fairs, community meetings, and workshops. Introduce yourself to people at your job, counselors at your school, and others who may be able to help you reach your goals. Keep their contact information in a portfolio or notebook.
Once you have developed contacts, stay in touch with these mentors on a regular basis and tell them about your goals, challenges, and successes. Ask questions about the things you are interested in. Ask these mentors about their lives, their careers, and their transitions. Offer them your talents as well; for example, send them articles or links to websites you think they might be interested in.
To expand your network by developing mentoring relationships over the Internet consult the Knowledge Base article Are there electronic mentoring programs for students with disabilities?