Parent Support Groups
Challenges:There is the challenge of a tight schedule in taking care of a child/adult with disabilities and finding the time to participate in a group. Let alone who takes care of the child/ adult when you go? If you bring them they can be disruptive.
There is the challenge of finding the energy.
There is the challenge of finding the right people, the right group. Everybody is going to have different experiences and these can range broadly even if the disability diagnosis is the same. Autism is a prime example of a broad range of behaviors, functionality, and challenges. Parents of an Asperger’s child may not have very similar experiences in terms of school, behaviors and other challenges as parents of a low functioning child with autism that go into meltdowns regularly. Some special needs parent support groups are very broad and inclusive of many disabilities. Experiences and looking for answers can be like ships passing in the night or helpful. It all depends on the support you want and the group dynamics.
Forming Your Own Parent Support GroupWe are a part of something we just call “Wednesday Night”. Wednesday Night is a group of parents with children/adults with autism, some former/current special education teachers, special education paras and caregivers, and some extended family members that get together most Wednesday nights at one person’s house or another. Who shows up fluctuates. We get together and have dinner. The dinner can be one person cooking for all, though people also bring food and drinks, or it can be potluck, or you can order out pizza, Thai, etc. There is a core group and two people that are really the drivers. Communication is mainly by an e-mail list.
Autistic kids can abound at Wednesday Night. Things can be chaotic, but who is not used to that. The behaviors happen around people and in homes that are used to it.
This allows for support for parents who can have a hard time getting out of the house with their autistic kid in a safe environment. For some parents this is really one of their only chances.
One option is to start a “Wednesday Night” of your own. It does take effort, reaching out, and persistence. The effort is easier once it gets going. I would say reach out to your current child’s classroom or adult center and find like-minded people. You could try and contact former teachers and parents of children in past classes. There are also neighborhood based message boards like Nextdoor.com where you join a group of people that live in your neighborhood. You could put a message on your local neighborhood board asking if there are parents of children with autism that live near-by to contact you and go from there. I would also ask people if they know someone with autistic children that live nearby to pass on the message.
We got involved in “Wednesday Night” a few years ago because my wife was walking her dog and talking to someone about Thomas and that person said, “ Hey, there is another person that walks her dog here that has a child with autism.” The connection was made.
Organizational Parent Support Groups ListIf you know of any support groups that are not on the list but you feel should be, please let me know at [email protected].
Support for Families has many support resources for families that are all free. Childcare is provided at all events. Many require pre registration.
Support Groups for Autsim in various languages. There are support groups for other disabilities.
The Parent Mentor Program was created to provide families with individualized peer support and information to foster learning and independence.
Support for Familes also offers workshops and other resources. Upcoming Events at Support for Families
Mothers of Childern with Autism and Aspergers Mochaa offers mothers support groups in a low-key, informal setting. Our mochaa moms benefit from being able to talk and socialize in a comfortable environment. Access to other parents with the same kinds of concerns and problems is essential for coping with the stresses of raising a child with special needs.
Fathers are wlecomed thoughh mochaa is predominantely geared towards supporting moms
Mochaa also offers play groups for childern with special needs and youth groups for teens.
Chicagoland Autism Connetction Monthly parent support groups and outings. Membership required. Outings require buying tickets.