It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted about my neighborhood support & study group for children with differences. But, some very exciting things have been happening within our small but growing group of local parents who have been gathering monthly to learn about how they can become strong advocates for their children with learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, special needs and other differences.
To better describe our group to ourselves and our community, we are now officially “branded” – as the KDDs Support & Study Group.
KDDs = Kids with Differences & Disabilities
We are a group of parents (so far just moms) who meet monthly to talk and learn about how we can support our children with differences. We even have a shiny new private Facebook group where we can share comments, events and links among group members.
Our group has been steadily growing in size, activity and interest. We started out last fall with just a few moms in my neighborhood. However, due to an increased interest by parents in my ISD and surrounding communities, for our March meeting, we invited parents and had several attendees from other neighborhoods in the North Dallas and Richardson, TX communities.
As our KDDs group is growing, I am simultaneously reaching out to moms from other neighborhoods and encouraging them to start up their own KDDs groups with friends living close by. This is exciting news, because the more KDDs groups that pop up around the Dallas and Richardson areas, the more parents can get involved.
For example, our March KDDs group, which met last Thursday, filled the living room of one mom’s home with mothers of students from three different local elementary schools – (ironically just a block away from the Shelton School, renowned as one of the best private schools for kids with learning differences in the country).
And the conversation has never been better.
One mom shared about how her son had recently experienced an “ah-ha” moment during class of suddenly understanding that his brain works differently – and how that’s OK.
Another mom talked about the struggle of just making the decision to attend the KDDs group, because attending meant that she was entering an unknown world with an unfamiliar conversation – one that she wasn’t sure that she was ready to join. These feelings were in spite of her strong desire to help her child who had been recently diagnosed with a learning difference.
As the group facilitator, I personally shared about how I am working to rebuild trust with my child’s school district after losing faith during previous interactions with ISD administrators who provided inaccurate information about how and when they were legally-obligated to assess my child for dyslexia, among other things. Throughout the KDDs meeting, I focused the group’s conversation on the importance of building a strong working relationship with our children’s campus teams, even when it’s very difficult, so that our kids can benefit as much as possible from ISD-provided services.
The KDDs conversations have been real, honest and most of all open. The group provides a safe place to open up and share what’s really on our minds as parents who are helping our kids go through things that we never thought they would go through.
While most parents spend countless hours planning for and dreaming about their child’s future, no parent ever plans for having a child with a difference.
That’s why seeking support to help through the process of acceptance, education and planning for your child with differences or disabilities is so important. And that’s what KDDs is all about.
The main purpose of the KDDs group is two-fold. First, KDDs gives parents a place where they can get to know other families in their communities who are facing the struggles that come with having a child with differences and special needs.
Second, KDDs aims to educate parents on how they can be the best advocates for their children, by teaching advocacy skills, positive communication strategies and providing resources to help educate parents about special education and disabilities laws at both a state and federal level.
The more KDDs groups, or groups with a similar purpose, that we can successfully plant across our community, the more parents will know that they are not alone.
There are many families who are facing the heartache and triumphs of raising a child with a difference. The more we come together, the greater we will be encouraged start new conversations about what works, what doesn’t and what we are doing to help improve both education services and life in general for our children.
Plus, the more informed and educated parents become about their role as advocates for their children with differences, the more equipped they will be to participate effectively in their children’s special education, IEP/ARD and 504 meetings with their local public schools. This will benefit not only our children, but serve to improve the process of working within the system that our government has established to protect kids with differences within our public schools and beyond.
Are you a parent seeking support in your journey as a parent of a child with differences? Interested in getting involved in a KDDs group in your neighborhood? Or, perhaps you are part of a similar study and support group in your area? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below to share your thoughts and ideas.
For more information on parent advocacy for children with learning disabilities, special needs and more, visit the new Different Doodles Pinterest page for links to other resources and organizations that can provide help, education and support. You can also follow me on Twitter @DiffyDoodles and on the Different Doodles page on Facebook.