Finding a Support Group For Kids With Different Needs

how to find an ADHD support group

Too Tired To Network?

Parenting a child with different needs (others call them special: baggage of that title included free) is isolating and frustrating work some days. Sometimes I am so focused on meeting my kid’s needs that I don’t have much contact with other adults. I’m so tired at the end of the day that I don’t wanna see, much less speak, other adults. But, that also means I don’t have anyone other than my wife (she’s exhausted because of me) with whom to share my daily triumphs and catastrophes, but we should. I should. The companionship of other parents who walk the same walk relieves my isolation and frustration, inspires my creativity and helps me become a better parent.

What About Support Groups?

It’s not easy to find a good fit with a support group. Each group has unique goals and interpersonal dynamics. Some groups are specific to a medical diagnosis such as ADHD, Autism. Hydrocephalus or Down Syndrome. Other groups work toward better communication with school administration, or provide information about medical or therapeutic options.

Here’s a breakdown of different types of support groups for parents of children with different needs:

1. Schools, Local Non-Profits & Children’s Hospitals

Start with your child’s school, non-profit organizations and local children’s hospitals. These groups may meet monthly all year round, or once a week for six weeks, usually in the evening. Some groups are led by a facilitator, some groups have a guest speaker followed by a discussion period. The only way to find out when and where is to call or e-mail for details.

2. Create Your Own Support Group
Consider rounding up a few acquaintances for an informal support group. People you meet here and there: in waiting rooms, in chat rooms, or friends you’ve made along the way.

3. Impromptu Support Groups
The waiting room at the clinic or adapted recreational facility often turns into an impromptu support group. Small talk quickly turns into something deeper in those circumstances – don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation.

4. Go Online
Online support groups act as a lifeline for those of you that are needed at home 24/7 with very little time alone.

The Internet, and now social media, transformed the different needs community. Facebook and Twitter make it especially easy to find other parents quickly, just by typing in a few keywords related to different needs. (Some say disability. See Baggage, again.)

There are some disadvantages to online groups. Plenty of inaccurate information is shared. Plenty of unwelcome opinions are shared, too. But most of the time, I’ve found interesting ideas to research, and I’ve been uplifted by the experiences of other parents in my situation.

For me, the biggest benefit of online support groups has been learning about the perspective of adults with different needs. They can explain what helped them when they were children, what they struggle with day-to-day as adults and how they solve real-life problems.

5. Support By Phone
Phone support groups offer the comfort of other human voices with flexibility of time and place. These groups are usually led for a fee by a psychologist or holistic healer, and they work well for people who want to work as a group toward a specific goal of acceptance, self-empowerment or stress relief.

6. Parent Advisory Councils
A special education parent-teacher association (PTA) or parent advisory council for different and medical needs can act as a liaison between parents and school administrators, and assist with collaboration between the two parties. This type of group is perfect for those who are well-organized or activists who want to improve their school community.

How Support Groups Effect Policy
Last week I attended a school committee meeting. Many of the parents at the meeting were agitated and emotional, and the school representatives became impatient, as the meeting kept veering off on tangents and individual anecdotes.

It occurred to me that the parents in the room had not been able to form a collective plan before the meeting because they had no way to reach out to one another — privacy laws keep parents of students with different and medical needs separated from each other. The meeting would have run much more smoothly if the parents had drafted a single statement signed by dozens of families.

Empowering Different Needs Parents

Shannon Des Roches Rosa writes about starting a different education PTA in her essay “How I Met Jennyalice” from the book My Baby Rides the Short Bus:

We realized that forming a special education PTA was the most straightforward way to empower parents like us and children like ours, to give us the power and knowledge to protect our kids from being trapped in inappropriate educational environments.

(Love the way she describes everyone involved. Just normal kids and parents doing normal things.)

We should provide a support network for the other different needs families in our district. We should arrive as Avenging Furies when our children are mistreated or misperceived.

It’s time our PTA slogan’s echo a war cry:

“Where angry men and women, moms and dads, and concerned individuals come together.’

Thankfully the PTA gives us a way to channel our ire into socially acceptable good deeds and projects.

I think that’s the objective of any support group for families of children with different needs: to absorb our bad days, our negative experiences, our headaches and sadness, and by doing so to renew our sense of purpose through fellowship.

For further information, email me today!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. I am not a counselor. Im just an adult with ADHD with children that are ADHD. If you have a medical emergency call 9-1-1, immediately.

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