Network Shape-Shifting

By  Donna Thomson

The first time I heard about PLAN was in 1998.  Our family was recently home in Ottawa from a four-year diplomatic posting in London, England and I found myself sitting across a slightly cramped café table from Al Etmanski.  My friend Kathleen and I were there to hear more about PLAN – an idea that seemed to involve taking all the loving relationships in our families’ lives (we had plenty, but at that time, we took them for granted) and transform them into a future good life for our children with disabilities.

Now, I understand much more about the complicated alchemy of creating and sustaining a personal support network for our son, Nicholas.  And I’m beginning to learn the tricks of moving countries with a shape-shifting network as well.  Last year we returned home from a second posting in London.

Let me explain what this means for Nick’s network.  Our extended family members always remain at the heart of Nick’s – that part doesn’t change.  There is one best friend of Nick’s who has remained constant as well, despite our moves to England.  But aside from family, our closest network members here in Canada are Nicholas’ best friends who share interests with our son.  Some are paid caregivers, but they spend their free time socializing with and supporting Nick.  They have chosen Nicholas to be their friend.  In England, we have a circle of steadfast friends as well, all former paid caregivers.  They were part of our UK network.  Now, we keep in touch with them via social media, phone calls and email.  But the heart of our network now, in Canada, consists of Canadian family and closest, lifelong friends.

I like to say that we have experienced two networks, one in Canada and one in England.   Nicholas’ English network members are all invited to visit here in Canada – we love them.  They will always be friends, but sometimes networks shape-shift for reasons of time and space.  Our network is here and now and I am happy to report that it’s working like a charm.


If you would like to learn how to build a personal network of support for your loved one or someone you support, Weaving the Ties that Bind is an online course on personal network development well worth taking.  Click here to find out more!