As a parent to a child with special needs one of the best things you can do for yourself and your child is to join a support group. Support groups can be rich in information that can be helpful for you while raising a child with special needs. You can learn from the experiences of parents who have been there before. There are opportunities for emotional and social support for you and your child. Here are some reasons to consider for joining a support group:
1. Schools, Teachers and IEPs
A support group will likely be people who live in the same community and neighborhood. This is helpful because there are other families who have shared experiences about making decisions for their child's education. This includes making decisions about special education classes, requesting additional school supports, and educational assistants.
2. What Do You Know About. . . ?
Everyone is always looking for a good doctor, dentist, therapy programs, recreational programs, and summer camps. Where can you get a good haircut for your child? What about asking each other about what they have heard and experienced about medications and special diets?
3. How Did They Get That?
Speak with other parents about the strategies and the wording that they used to access certain services, funding, and programs. While it would be nice if services were available to everyone equally, this is not a reality. Are there key words or ways of requesting services?
4. Strength in Numbers
Parents often share that it can be difficult and intimidating to influence changes in programs and services. However if families come together and are all voicing concerns and feedback together, this can help to get the attention of decision makers. Many of the changes of programs and legislation have come from parent advocates.
5. Sounding Board
Outside of your family unit, other parents in a support group can be a sounding board for you to talk through key decisions or ideas that you want to try with your child. Other parents may be able to help you give input about what to do. They can problem solve with you.
6. Understanding Without a Monologue
Some parents will share that connecting with other parents of children with special needs is a huge area of support. Whether your families and friends are supportive or not, sometimes it is nice to connect with people who live in similar circumstances, because they know because they have lived it and you don't need to explain it.
7. Let's Go Play
In support groups, there is a possibility that you will meet other families who have children with similar interests. It can be a lot easier to set up family outings and play dates with another child with similar needs and adults who are comfortable with being around you and your child. There is less reason to feel self-conscious or worried about how your child will do in a social situation.
8. Go Online
Now more than ever, families are finding support groups online through Facebook, Twitter, chat groups, and blogs (just like this one). This is one of the fastest ways information gets shared and effective if time, travel and child care can be a challenge.
9. OMG, You Like to Watch The Bachelor Too?
Outside of supporting each other and advocating for your children, you may discover that you have more in common especially on a social level. Sometimes it's just nice to make new friends.
10. Pass It On
Whether you realize it or not, the experiences that you have had will be helpful to someone else. Sharing your story gives hope, insight, tips and encouragement to others.
Written on 2013/09/03 by: Esther Leung