You have probably heard the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” and after becoming a parent, it’s easy to see why this saying exists. Churches, neighbors, friends, family, playgroups and support groups are valuable resources for parents in all stages. It’s important we find our people, and build our support system, to help us find resources and remember we aren’t alone in our struggles.
“Building a support system is essential for families raising children with special needs,” says Kathy Berman, director of community relations for About Special Kids (ASK), Indiana’s parent-to-parent organization serving families raising children with special needs. “When you have a child with a disability, your world can be filled with many unanswered questions. Oftentimes, raising a child with unique needs can be isolating.”
Berman says that the best way to find answers and a source of reassurance and understanding is to connect with others with shared experiences. “Parent groups can share information about their child’s diagnosis, school services and accommodations, therapies, local policies, transportation, funding sources, and provide emotional support,” Berman says. “Another great characteristic of parent support groups is that parents can experience both receiving help and offering help. Peer support offers a tremendous opportunity for personal growth as families support each other in their resilience and recovery.”
So how do you go about finding your support system? Here are some resources for parents who are wanting to connect:
- Check with your pediatrician or healthcare provider for a recommendation tailored to your child and family’s unique situation and needs.
- Check with local churches to see if support groups, or special needs ministry programs, are being offered.
- Use online resources to search for support groups, such as the Indiana Resource Disability Finder (indianadisabilityresourcefinder.org) or the ASK Resource Directory (aboutspecialkids.org/directory/search). Both directories allow refined searches by area.
- Find a group to connect with on a social media platform, such as Facebook.
- In addition to support groups for parents, there are also support groups for families and for children. “Teen Cafes” are becoming very popular in certain areas.
Virtual support group options might also be available, in addition to in-person support groups. Virtual formats are currently most popular due to social distancing requirements.
Incredible things happen when individuals come together to encourage, educate, support and care for one another. If you haven’t found your support group yet, hopefully these resources will help push you in the right direction, and in no time you will find yourself meeting regularly with your people — and enjoying the many benefits that come from both receiving and giving support to those in need.