Circle Groups

Circle groups will engage young people and young adults in the next stages of life, developing their social, emotional and personal journey. Please see below for details on how to get involved!

What are circle groups?

Over many years Symbol UK LTD have been developing a model of communication-focused social groups for young people with Down syndrome aged 11 to early 20s. Following on from speech and language therapy groups for younger children, these sessions focus on communication, relationships, community and identity, and provide opportunities to:

  • Meet up with friends and make new friends,

  • Socialise and take part in fun activities with facilitation

  • Talk about their lives and what’s on their minds, and offer each other support

  • Get support with speech and language skills, including clearer speech, alternative means of communication, vocabulary skills, and social skills and social language.

  • Practice skills in making and maintaining relationships, assertion, and self-expression.

Why do young people with Down’s syndrome need these groups?

Young people with Down’s syndrome are showing the world how much they can achieve given the right support. Saying that, our young people still struggle with low expectations of what they can achieve. They often struggle understanding social situations and reacting appropriately, with the added pressure of puberty and relationships upon them they can really benefit from having a safe space with professionals who understand them, to learn these vital skills. Using a syndrome specific approach our highly skilled staff can help the young people express themselves to the best of their ability, whilst facilitating appropriate social and behavioural responses to new social situations. The young people will explore their own identities and how they interact with the world around them. How young people manage social situations, relationships and challenges is key in enabling them to access their communities and build meaningful relationships with those around them. Our young people have the same range of emotions as all teenagers and young adults, it is truly vital that we give them the opportunities to work through these emotions in a safe space with their peers and staff to support them.

Who runs the circle groups?

The groups are run by 21 Together staff who have had extensive training in working with people with Down’s syndrome. They all have a strong background in speech and language therapy, most are high level experienced TA’s who have been running speech groups for many years. All our groups are ultimately run and supervised by Symbol UK LTD or Symbol trained highly qualified speech therapists, Leela Baksi will be leading the Communication for Life groups. Leela is one of the leading pioneers of this approach.

When and Where?

These groups will start after the Easter break in 2019. To get the right groupings of young people we hope to offer you a group lasting approx. one hour that will start sometime after 10 am on a Saturday and will run every other Saturday during term time. We are unable to adjust the time slots to accommodate individuals as it vital the right young people access the right groups for this approach to work.  All groups will run out of our main building that is in central Maidstone, 5 minutes from the M20. Due the numbers involved and the nature of the groupings we are unable to have more area options at present. We will keep reviewing this as we understand the journey for some families is significant, however due to financial constraints and issues with finding enough children in several areas to make the group work we have chosen a central Kent location.

Who can attend?

When we receive a firm intention to attend to the 21 Together communication groups we will (in association with the Speech and Language Therapists), review all the information and decide which group or group/s the child, young person or young adult, is best suited to and the one that best suits their needs. It may be that we feel your child needs a smaller group working on different skills, not all young people will be ready to move directly into the circle groups and may benefit from our communication groups to start with. Communication groups can cater for all ages and needs. If we don’t have an appropriate group running for the young person or young adult to join, we may ask you to remain on the list until we can match enough children/young people. It is vital we carefully consider the needs of the group when adding new members, this benefits everyone involved.

Is there any cost?

21 Together are passionate about providing these groups. We very heavily subsidise the sessions. Currently we are funding well over 50% of the cost of all places taken up. To make the groups viable in the long term we do ask families for a £20 minimum donation for each session which is payable termly and in advance. As always, if you feel for whatever reason that this cost would mean a young person could not attend we would urge you to contact us as we have financial support available to those that need it.

What do I need to do now?

It is vital that we know if you are just interested in the groups or if you have a firm intention of attending if offered a place. Those who have a firm intention will be allocated groups ASAP. Those who are just interested will remain on our waiting list and will get more information when it is available. This allows our Speech team to contact people when necessary to start allocating group places. Please complete the following form to register your interest.