A Community with Relationships for Survivors of Brain Injury

Social Capital – A Community with Relationships for Survivors of Brain Injury

Marilyn Lash, M.S.W.

Too many losses after brain injury

Surveys, research studies and published articles repeatedly cite facts and data about the multiple losses experienced by survivors of brain injury. Loss of friends, separation and divorce, unemployment, limited transportation, and inadequate housing – these regularly top the list. Whether the information has been gathered from a scientific study, telephone interviews or personal accounts – the results strike a common theme of lost relationships, social isolation, and limited choices.

Too often the direction and choices that persons with brain injury have in their lives are controlled by the availability of funding and resources for services and programs rather than by the survivor’s dreams and vision for the future. Despite the growth and expansion of brain injury rehabilitation over the last 30 years, the goals and wishes of most survivors and their families still have not been met. Al Condeluci asserts that it is time for rehabilitation professionals to ask the critical question of, “What do the people we serve want for themselves?”

A new look at the meaning of community and relationships

Condeluci’s vision of change is founded on the concepts of community and social capital. He defines “community” as a network of people who regularly come together for a common cause or celebration. Community is not defined or limited by its geography – it is based on the relationships among its members. The behaviors of people within the community develop the culture of the community.

Once you think of a community as a network of people rather than a place, then you realize it is the common cause of the members that unites them and forms their connections. This results in a sense of “social capital” among the members. Condeluci explains that, “Social capital refers to the connections and relationships that develop around community and the value these relationships hold for the members.”

Time to change our focus

Once you view personal relationships and community within this concept of social capital, then you readily see how limited or absent it is for too many persons with brain injury and other disabilities. Social capital is directly linked to building relationships, getting a job, finding someone to live with, and living a meaningful life. Condeluci suggests that our traditional rehabilitation model and philosophy has focused too narrowly on “fixing” people. It is time to shift the focus from fixing to helping people build and connect with their community. This requires envisioning and developing a new framework for human services that builds social capital for persons with brain injury and disabilities in order to address their goals and to finally provide a fulfilling quality of life.


Condeluci, Al (2011). The Power and Potency of Social Capital. Brain Injury/Professional,  8(3), 8-11.


Recommended Reading:


Together is Better: Creating a community where each belongs

Al Condeluci, Ph.D.

Book explores people with disabilities in society, including challenges and rewards of tolerating differences and developing a community where there is a place for young and old, children and adults, people with and without disabilities.





Essence of Interdependence: Building community for everyone

Al Condeluci, Ph.D.

By exploring the roles, expectations, behavior and stereotypes of people with and without disabilities, Condeluci shows how to support the development, growth and independence of people with disabilities in their communities.





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