Are you a parent of a child with learning differences or another special need? Looking for support and encouragement in your neck of the woods? A few weeks ago, I decided to start up a support and study group for moms dealing with these issues right in my own back yard.
Follow my new series here and on the local Advocate Far North Dallas blog about the neighborhood support group I’ve started for moms in my area who have children with learning differences or special needs.
Check out today’s blog post on the Advocate here
Also, read a copy of the full article here:
Will You Be My Advocate: Moms of Special Needs Children Connect Through Support Group
We all have our core group of friends – the women that you turn to when you need to talk about your kids or whatever else is going on in your life. But, when I recently decided that I needed to seek out specialized guidance and support to help me as I advocate for and make educated decisions about my kids with learning differences, I was amazed to discover that much of the support I needed was right in my back yard.
As a mother of two children who learn and play in a way that doesn’t always look like everyone else, I decided earlier this fall to start up a support and study group for moms in my area who have children with special needs and/or learning differences.
And I didn’t have to look far. As a work-from-home mom, I’m pretty plugged into my school community and neighborhood, and already knew a few other moms nearby who have children with some sort of difference, be it ADHD, high-functioning autism, dyslexia or another learning differences or disability. And, as we began to talk openly about our kid’s challenges and our struggles in seeking appropriate testing, services and therapy for them, a bond began to form. I quickly realized that the more we talked about what was going on with our kids – at after-school pick-up, play dates, soccer practices – the more other moms in our circle of friends began to share about similar situations in their own families.
As I listened, I learned that while we were all in different stages of discovery, advocacy and intervention for our kids, one thing we all seemed to have in common was the desire to feel accepted – both for our children and for ourselves. Having a child with a difference can be very isolating. You often feel like you don’t fit in with other moms, just like your kids probably feel like they don’t fit in with other kids. And one thing that seems to break down those walls of isolation is the ability to talk about what you are going through with someone who is going through it, too.
Before I knew it, I had formed a list of about a dozen families within less than a one-mile radius, whom I thought might be interested in the group. Most of these families live within walking distance of our home and our elementary school, which is right at the end of our street. It amazed me that there were so many other families going through exactly what we were, and so close by. I knew we had to somehow tap into each other for support and create a forum where we could learn and share.
So, I chose a date, sent out an email and made some coffee. Last month, at our first meeting, four moms sat in my family room and talked openly and honestly about exactly where we are with our kids. We started by sharing some background – what specifically is going on with our kids, where they struggle the most, where we struggle the most, and what we as parents are doing to try to help them. Some moms went into a lot of detail about their specific frustrations – working with the school district, their extended family’s lack of understanding about their children’s disabilities, financial struggles associated with lots of expensive testing and private therapy. You name it, we got into it.
The conversation was rich, honest and real. And the best part was that not once did I feel (as I often do when the subject comes up in day-to-day conversations) that I was whining and complaining, or that I was boring someone with details about my child that they didn’t understand or really care about. We all listened, and most of all, we all understood.
The group (which doesn’t even an “official” name yet) is planning to meet again this month. Since it’s the holidays, we’re going to start by sharing our “Wish Lists” of the things that we want the most for our children in the coming year. On my list is getting our school district to recognize my youngest child’s learning disability and give her an age-appropriate, accredited and intensive intervention program by a qualified teacher. I’m guessing that other moms will be wishing for better documentation of and evidence that their children’s special education services are being administered appropriately. Others just want their child to get appropriate testing and possibly diagnoses so they can know how to best address their needs. And, I know that we all want to become better educated and more confident advocates for our children.
So, as the holiday season kicks into full gear, I am thankful for the possibilities of this new, nearby source of support and encouragement. Stay tuned on the blog as I chronicle the development of the group, what we are studying and how we are (hopefully) checking items off of our “Wish Lists” for our kids, one by one.
Do you have a child with a learning difference or other disability? I would love to hear about how you seek out and receive support in our community. Comment here or email me anytime.