Dr. Al Condeluci defines “social capital” as the value that relationships bring to our lives. In his books, university lectures, consultations, and in nation-wide presentations, Dr. Condeluci describes how people who have disabilities often have less social capital, and how damaging that can be. Research shows that health, happiness, jobs, advancement in work, and longevity are all tied to social capital.
Parents, educators, and health care providers focus on providing support to meet important developmental and educational goals. But one crucial area that is often overlooked is social engagement, the need for friends and connectedness.
Dr. Condeluci outlines four steps to building social capital:
1. Find what your child has in common with others
That could be any interest or activity: reading, golf, computers, music, dance, nature walks, drawing, movies, or video games, etc.
2. Find a matching community venue that meets on a regular basis
Is there a club or group in the community focused on this activity? It might be a book club, drumming circle, gardening club, or hiking group.
3. Understand how the group or club works
What is expected of people in this group? How do the members behave? What jargon do they use? Share this information with your child as it relates to them.
4. Find a “gatekeeper”
A gatekeeper is a person already in the group who can introduce a new person to the group. Maybe a neighbor or co-worker pitches for a community softball team. They could be a gatekeeper for your daughter who wants to play softball. Everyone in the group knows the gatekeeper and will readily accept the new member if the gatekeeper brings the person in.