Circles I

Intimacy & Relationships

relationships, the actual individuals who fill that circle will be different for each of us.

Part of learning the CIRCLES concept involves creating an individual set of circles that specifies who is actually filling that relationship circle in real life. The boundary of a blue hug relationship and the other relationships we value are illustrated in high-interest, low-complexity video dramas across the parameters of touch, talk, and trust.

Around that circle is another one, a little bit less intimate, a little further away, and inclusive of more people. Usually, extended family members, or people who act like family members, and close friends populate this circle. This is the Green Far Away Hug Circle. Creating expectations for friends and family for touch, talk ,and trust assists the person to recognize encroachment and potential abuse at a time before harm is done.

Sometimes, when it is time to fill in the names of friends, it will become apparent a person has no one to fill in. Although it is sad to hear that someone has no friends, it may be the first step toward discovering the obstacle to friendships and addressing it.

Around that circle is another circle, the Yellow Handshake Circle. It represents the social distance for acquaintances. A person whose name you know and who knows your name qualifies for that circle. We can shake hands but limit our touch to hands only. Similarly, there is more remote conversation and less trust. There are usually many people in this circle. They are people who you only know slightly.

Around that is another circle, the Orange Wave Circle. There is no body contact or touch in this more distant circle. You can see a familiar face across the street and just wave. It is best to wave to children you do not know well. It is up to their parents to decide who touches their children.

Around that circle is the Red Stranger Space. Most of the people in the world are in this space. Most people are strangers: we do not touch them; we do not talk to them; we do not trust them. And they do not touch, talk to, or trust us, either. The exception in this group is the Community Helper. This person can be recognized because he or she wears a badge or a uniform and works in a specialized work-type setting. You can talk to community helpers about business. It is important to recognize what the limits are in business touch, business talk, and business trust for various community helpers.

The CIRCLES Program can be personalized according to the age and ability of the individual. The CIRCLES Guide Book gives suggestions for activities that support the large array of concepts that can be addressed through the use of CIRCLES at a variety of developmental stages and abilities.

As with typical teenagers, educating people with developmental disabilities about relationships is difficult. It is important to always keep the lines of communication open and to understand that mistakes in judgment may be made. However, if a person with DS is fully informed, those mistakes can be lessened. It is important to also recognize how relationships enhance the quality of life for people with DS throughout the life span, and, at the same time understand the need for education to minimize potential abuses and resolve other relationship issues.


Stavis P, Walker-Hirsch L (Chapter 4), Dinerstein, RD, Herr, S & O'Sullivan, Jr, eds. (1999): A Guide to Consent, AAMR, Washington, DC.

Walker-Hirsch L, Champagne M (1981): The CIRCLES Program, James Stanfield Co., Santa Barbara, CA.

Walker-Hirsch L, Champagne M (1981): CIRCLES: Stop Abuse, James Stanfield Co., Santa Barbara, CA.

Walker-Hirsch L, Champagne M (1985): CIRCLES: Safer Ways, James Stanfield Co., Santa Barbara, CA.

Walker-Hirsch L, Champagne M (1991): "CIRCLES Revisited—Ten Years Later," Sexuality and Disability, Vol. 9, No. 2, James Stanfield Co., Santa Barbara, CA.

Walker-Hirsch L, Champagne M. (1993): CIRCLES: Intimacy and Relationships, James Stanfield Co., Santa Barbara, CA.

Walker-Hirsch L, Acton, G., "Sexuality and Young Adults with Developmental Disabilities" (Fall 1994) Pursuing Healthy Lives for The Transition Years, IMPACT, University of Minnesota, Volume 7(2).

Walker-Hirsch L, Special Education Meets Sexuality Education, SIECUS Report, April/May 1995.

Helping Your Child Learn To Read

Helping Your Child Learn To Read

When parents help their children learn to read, they help open the door to a new world. As a parent, you can begin an endless learning chain: You read to your children, they develop a love of stories and poems, they want to read on their own, they practice reading, and finally they read for their own information or pleasure. They become readers, and their world is forever expanded and enriched.

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