If you are the parent of a child with special needs such as a terminal illness, learning disabilities, developmental delays, cognitive damage or psychiatric problems, then you may have found it difficult to find support in your area. Many times when you are the parent of a child with special needs such as autism, you may find yourself faced by friends and family who do not fully understand your unique situation. They may withdraw from you, purely out a sense of not knowing how to help, leaving you with a feeling of having no support system. Support groups can offer you a wealth of information that has been assembled over years of experience from many parents who have faced similar struggles.
The experience of a support group can put you in touch with children who may share interest which your child enjoys. Family get-togethers or outings can be a more positive experience when shared with a family who is both comfortable with, and familiar with the social requirements of, a special needs child.
Finding a new friend as a playmate for your child is a nice perk of attending a local support group, but support groups are also a great time for parents to find new friends for themselves. Take a moment to socialize and see what you might have in common with attending parents.
The Value of Shared Experiences
Parents are presented with empowering opportunities to share their experiences with others who are raising a child with special needs, in hopes of bettering one another’s knowledge base. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes one to raise a community. Social and emotional support is available from people who probably live close by in your neighborhood. Take advantage of the assistance that is available for you. Establishing contact with other parents of special needs children can open doors to assistance which you may not have been aware of, such as educational classes, inclusive events and other community support.
Important, first hand knowledge can be presented from other parents in regards to medications, education, recreational services such as summer camps, doctors and therapy services, as well as recommended locations to obtain a haircut. You may not be aware of certain funding, services or strategies that you can turn to and speaking to other parents of special needs children can reveal the proper procedures for requesting assistance from any state run assistance programs. Speaking with other parents in a support group is also a great opportunity to talk over any decisions about ideas you may be considering engaging in with your child. Other parents can offer advice on how to approach a given situation from their own experiences.
There are many services specialized for your child’s specific needs. The Autism Source is but only one. It is a resource database that offers resources through a nationwide network of autism organizations throughout the USA. Your child’s school as well as non-profit organizations may have groups that meet monthly or once a week and sometimes offer a guest speaker. Ask faculty or staff if they can point you in the right direction for local options. If you are having difficulty finding a local support group in your area you can locate a vast majority of support groups through the internet. Blogs, Social networking sites, chat forums and more, can be easily located online. This is great for parents who have a busy schedule and limited time available for travelling.
- Government Recommendations
- Many state governments have programs for special needs kids, here are two examples:
NY Department of Health
TX Department of Health
- Online resource dedicated to raising special kids who have special needs
- Information about how to handle bullying
- Online forum for sharing knowledge with other parents
- The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome