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Have you ever tried an autism parent support group?
You are not alone. No matter what brings you into a parent support group, that is the one thing you should never leave without knowing.
There are many options for groups – ostensibly one to fit every lifestyle. If you live in an area where the population is dense and the incidence of autism is high, then you likely have your pick of groups – day, evening, large, small, more educational or more social-emotional. You may even choose to attend several, to connect with different people.
If you live in a small town or more rural area, then those in-person connections can be more difficult to achieve. But you can still find a version of a parent support group. You may need to connect in an online forum or listserv, or with therapists who run programs over Zoom or similar platforms. This is one of the many ways that technology can help overcome some of the isolation of special needs parenting.
Regardless of the specifics and mechanics of the group, you should look for a parent support group that helps you with the following:
When you learn from another parent about calling 911, or making the difficult decision to place their child in a group home or other residential setting, it can be fear-inducing, but it can also help you gain perspective. There are always different, more challenging struggles than the ones you are facing. And hearing other people’s stories can help you gain valuable perspective on your own difficulties.
As you progress on the journey of parenting a child with special needs, you will move away from a point of just looking for a place to start (link), and move towards a place where you can trade resources with anyone. You will always have a little tidbit to share – something that has worked for you recently – or a hidden gem that few people know about. And you will also always have something to learn – a new restaurant that offers a quiet room, a new program at a local museum, or a new inclusive musical performance.
Share Battle Stories
No one will walk exactly the same path as you will through the world of special needs parents. But other special needs parents are certainly the ones who are mostly likely to “get it.” Other parents of special needs also speak the language of IEPs, SLPs and CPT codes. They will understand gripes about mainstreaming not happening, services going undelivered, or long waiting lists for providers.
And because you share an understanding of the challenges with those parents, then you will also be able to celebrate the victories together. They are the ones who will understand what it means to have a goal rewritten in the addendum IEP meeting, or to win approval for a certain CPT code on an insurance reimbursement. And, most certainly, they are the ones who will appreciate news of your child hitting milestones on, shall we say, non-traditional timetables (like potty-training at 8, or tying a shoelace at 12).
And while these groups are often focused around a specific disability or condition, it can also be helpful and important to engage with the larger special needs community. Look for ways to do that via your local hospital, clinic, occupational therapy gym, or community center. Connecting with a broader group of families can help you feel less isolated and more empowered. And there are many issues that benefit from the support of the broader community.
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Sisterhood of Special Needs Parents
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