At DreamCatchers NH, we believe people of ALL Abilities should have the opportunity to make friends and engage with their community. We believe that we are made to live in the community and do best when we have meaningful and authentic relationships that bring out our true selves.
Many of the individuals we work with may have an underdeveloped executive function, which can make it hard to have the necessary skills that naturally help us build relationships, such as: initiating conversations, planning (inviting someone somewhere), etc. These skills can be learned and often are in a school setting.
However, practicing these skills is necessary in helping these individuals follow through. For example, the introduction of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that says, "Joe needs to make more friends by talking to one new person per day."
This is one example that DreamCatchers NH can work with to provide a natural opportunity that builds trust as the students work together and allow for conversation to organically happen.
In our middle school programs, the paraprofessionals love working with individuals in this way. It makes them see another side of the students and they get to “let their hair down” in a more casual setting.
Programs begin at the Middle School level, typically through after school “clubs”. Clubs are facilitated by a Club Leader, often a Special Education teacher or Paraprofessional. Club members meet after school for two hours, one or two times a month during the school year. Activities are fun and, as mentioned, include one or more of the core focus areas (communication, relationships, and self-advocacy).
In the 2018-19 school year, we anticipate launching a revised High School Program that will add opportunities to experience leadership and discuss healthy romantic relationships; a topic many students have requested. We are planning at least one session on romantic relationships with a guest speaker to discuss what it’s like to be in a healthy relationship or a local expert to answer questions from the group.
The DreamCatchers 2.0 young adult programs add community engagement as a core part of the program to create interaction with and in the community. We partner with local university students to help plan activities that connect members dreams with something fun the group can do together. For example, a young man who wants to be a comedian may participate in an open mic night with the group.