Translating Research into Everyday Practice

Circles: Intimacy and Relationships

This program for teenagers and young adults with cognitive differences helps them to recognize exploitative relationships as well as develop mutually respectful ones. The Circles program assists individuals in discriminating different levels of intimacy and adapting their behaviors accordingly. 


The program teaches individuals how relationships can be formed and maintained according to the social norms & social boundaries of our day and age. Thus, the Circles program lays the foundation for people with disabilities to manage the amount of personal responsibility and social integration now available to them. 


Circles, Level 1covers abstract concepts in a very simple and concrete manner. The connection between the kind of relationship and the corresponding level of intimacy is demonstrated visually, making it easy for individuals to understand this important concept. This program uses step-by-step dramatizations, so it is an ideal introduction to the Circle Paradigm, especially for individuals with mild to moderate cognitive impairment. 

Level 1, Part 1: Social Distance

Helping individuals “see “social boundaries. Part 1 identifies the relationship between the level of intimacy and the way they TOUCH, TALK to, and TRUST each other. Relationship boundaries and relationship-specific behaviors are covered. For example, you may give many hugs to family members, but it would be inappropriate to hug the mail carrier.


Level 1, Part 2: Relationship Building

Part 2 demonstrates how intimacy levels change as relationships change. It emphasizes the role of mutual choice among individuals when deciding what level of intimacy will characterize a relationship. This concept is critical for protecting individuals with cognitive differences and delays from exploitation and from exploiting others.


Circles: Part 1 is a 4-hour program including 2 hours of instruction and 2 hours of practical application and planning.