How to be an effective special needs parent

Parenting a child with special needs has taught me a lot. Here are some things I’ve learned that are helpful when I parent all three of my children.

My middle child was born with special needs. He’s unable to walk or talk but is still a sassy 8-year-old boy. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about parenting a differently-abled child. And I started using those lessons with all three of my elementary-aged children and realized just how helpful they can be.

Here are a few techniques I’ve been using with all my kids that have helped my parenting journey. I encourage other parents to consider them whether they have a child with special needs or not.

  • RELATED:5 Qualities I Look for in Health Care Providers Who Are Treating My Son With Special Needs

Body language is key

My son can’t express himself with words, so keeping a close eye on his physical reactions is important. He curls up into a ball when he’s upset and is relaxed and engaged when he’s happy. Even just a small flinch of his eye or a turn of his head can tell me when a room is too sunny or the water in a pool is too cold.

My other two children communicate with words, but their body language also speaks volumes and I’ve learned to pay attention to it. When any of my children have extra energy, yet are struggling to follow directions, they are, more often than not, tired. Before they get too wound up and potentially misbehave, I’ll suggest we lie down for some quiet time. Usually, within a few minutes, they’re napping.

Paying attention to body language saves us all frustration and bridges a gap in communication.

Everyone learns differently

Some people learn by listening, some by visualizing, and some by using their hands. Some people thrive when they are alone, and others in a group setting. With my son’s limited mobility, his teachers use a variety of strategies in his classroom to determine what works best for him.

I keep these differences in mind when I reinforce concepts at home. I’ll explain something a few different ways. Or suggest backing into an answer from another direction. Using manipulatives like measuring cups reinforces concepts by connecting to a fun activity like baking.

I also consider how my children learn when I sign them up for after-school activities. Some sports are team-oriented where others are more independent. Finding activities that are a good fit may take time but can be worth the extra effort to see my child thrive. And when they have to manage a class or deal with a coach that isn’t a good fit? Knowing how they learn helps me understand their reactions, and how to help them overcome their challenges.

  • RELATED: I’m an Adult With a Disability: Here’s Why I’m Optimistic About Kids With Disabilities Today

Walk away when you are losing patience

Children test their parents’ patience. It’s par for the course, right? But how I approach those moments is what counts.

Over the years I’ve struggled to get my son to eat enough. This causes a lot of stress around mealtimes. But seeing me get frustrated makes the situation worse. He knows when I’m losing my composure. And he responds by eating even less.

Now, when I feel my patience thinning, I switch gears. I make sure the kids are safe and walk away for a few minutes. I get fresh air. I do something productive that makes me feel better. Once I’m calm, I try a different food, or wait until he’s more interested in his meal.

Taking a pulse on my own needs can help too. Have I had enough water to drink today? Do I need to put on music to lighten the mood? Small changes that contribute to my own self-care help me feel happier during potentially stressful times or avoid a loss of patience altogether.

Advocating needs to be done nicely but persistently

From finding doctors and therapists who work best with our family to figuring out how to include my son in outings, I spend a lot of time advocating for a child who can’t speak up for himself.

I get angry when a facility isn’t accessible. Or when a teacher or therapist doesn’t understand my child. But expressing my anger never gets me a desired outcome. Now, I nicely explain what we need—and that goes for any situation involving any of my kids. If I don’t make progress with one person, I thank them for their time and look for someone else who may be more knowledgeable or confident making accommodations.

Most people are willing to help if they can and know how. But the way I approach the situation makes a big difference in their willingness to be supportive.

Whether you’re just starting out on this path or looking for ways to improve your parenting skills, check out these suggestions from a mother who has been there.

Many parents of children with special needs appear to parent with grace, balance, and energy. In addition, they seem remarkably stress-free and organized. How, in the face of all of these challenges and more, do they keep it together? What habits do they embrace that allow them to be highly effective parents for their children?

Habit One: They are proactive and advocate for their children and educate others.

Parents become experts about their children and their needs. They conduct ongoing research; ask questions of therapists, doctors, specialists, and other professionals; and keep an organized binder full of notes and important information. They create and add to their at-home special needs libraries. They are knowledgeable about vernacular, treatments, and services. They are well versed in the state and federal laws that regulate services for their children.

Because of their knowledge parents are effective educators of their child’s faculty and staff. They are powerful advocates for treatment, services, and support—in and outside of school.

Habit Two: They maintain a sense of normalcy within the family.

Effective parents realize that although everyone in the family is affected by their child’s disorder, they are not defined by it. Parents work to ensure that siblings have childhoods and do not take on adult responsibilities. They encourage siblings to spend time with their friends.

Parents are proactive about training other family members, friends, and sitters about how to care for their child so that they can have time for themselves—individually and as a couple—perhaps going out on weekly dates. They also spend time in the company of other adult friends.

Habit Three: They take care of themselves.

Parents nurture their needs and recognize that doing so is vital for themselves as well as their children. Effective parents address themselves holistically, meaning they take care of their physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs.

They eat nutritious, unprocessed food and don’t skip meals. They make sure their bodies are properly hydrated.

They schedule time for regular exercise, by themselves or with friends. They engage in activities that offer creative or intellectual enrichment.

Habit Four: They manage their stress.

Effective parents are intentional about reducing stress in their lives by setting time aside each day to promote calm and centering. They adopt practices such as prayer, deep breathing, and meditation to replenish their inner reserves. Rebecca, a mom of a son who has a diagnosis of autism, says, “When in doubt I choose grace, to forgive people for letting me down or for rejecting my son, for whatever reason.”

When parents lead lives that are stress-free and balanced, all family members, especially children, win. Research, by the Gottman Institute, supports that children fare better emotionally, socially, and academically when parents manage their stress properly.

Habit Five: They make rest a priority.

While any parent can tire in her or his parenting responsibilities, parenting a child with special needs can elevate fatigue to a whole different level. Sometimes parents do not realize the extent of their exhaustion. I certainly did not. My child’s physical therapist pointed this out to me.

Effective parents realize the importance of getting to bed as early as possible, or taking naps to offset the sleep they lose due to their child’s irregular sleep patterns—up and down throughout the night, late to bed, and early to rise.

Habit Six: They surround themselves with energy givers.

People are either energy zappers or energy givers. Effective parents opt to spend time in the company of people who lift them up, make them feel confident, positive, and happy. They realize energy givers help them to feel energized, inspired, and motivated. Parents of special needs children appreciate and need this energy.

Habit Seven: They have a support group.

Parenting a child with special needs can be lonely. However, there is no need to be alone in the journey. Effective parents are part of or have created a group of parents whose parenting journeys are similar to theirs. Christy, a single mother of a child with mental health issues shares, “I’ve found that meeting and sharing with people who have raised children with similar issues helps me. They understand what I deal with without me having to explain it. Their support helps me to be calm when I’m with my child.”

Judy M. Miller is an author, mom, and parent educator. She writes about adoption, special needs, parenting, and relationships.

Things To Do

How to be an effective special needs parent

Parenting a child with special needs has taught me a lot. Here are some things I’ve learned that are helpful when I parent all three of my children.

My middle child was born with special needs. He’s unable to walk or talk but is still a sassy 8-year-old boy. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about parenting a differently-abled child. And I started using those lessons with all three of my elementary-aged children and realized just how helpful they can be.

Here are a few techniques I’ve been using with all my kids that have helped my parenting journey. I encourage other parents to consider them whether they have a child with special needs or not.

  • RELATED:5 Qualities I Look for in Health Care Providers Who Are Treating My Son With Special Needs

Body language is key

My son can’t express himself with words, so keeping a close eye on his physical reactions is important. He curls up into a ball when he’s upset and is relaxed and engaged when he’s happy. Even just a small flinch of his eye or a turn of his head can tell me when a room is too sunny or the water in a pool is too cold.

My other two children communicate with words, but their body language also speaks volumes and I’ve learned to pay attention to it. When any of my children have extra energy, yet are struggling to follow directions, they are, more often than not, tired. Before they get too wound up and potentially misbehave, I’ll suggest we lie down for some quiet time. Usually, within a few minutes, they’re napping.

Paying attention to body language saves us all frustration and bridges a gap in communication.

Everyone learns differently

Some people learn by listening, some by visualizing, and some by using their hands. Some people thrive when they are alone, and others in a group setting. With my son’s limited mobility, his teachers use a variety of strategies in his classroom to determine what works best for him.

I keep these differences in mind when I reinforce concepts at home. I’ll explain something a few different ways. Or suggest backing into an answer from another direction. Using manipulatives like measuring cups reinforces concepts by connecting to a fun activity like baking.

I also consider how my children learn when I sign them up for after-school activities. Some sports are team-oriented where others are more independent. Finding activities that are a good fit may take time but can be worth the extra effort to see my child thrive. And when they have to manage a class or deal with a coach that isn’t a good fit? Knowing how they learn helps me understand their reactions, and how to help them overcome their challenges.

  • RELATED: I’m an Adult With a Disability: Here’s Why I’m Optimistic About Kids With Disabilities Today

Walk away when you are losing patience

Children test their parents’ patience. It’s par for the course, right? But how I approach those moments is what counts.

Over the years I’ve struggled to get my son to eat enough. This causes a lot of stress around mealtimes. But seeing me get frustrated makes the situation worse. He knows when I’m losing my composure. And he responds by eating even less.

Now, when I feel my patience thinning, I switch gears. I make sure the kids are safe and walk away for a few minutes. I get fresh air. I do something productive that makes me feel better. Once I’m calm, I try a different food, or wait until he’s more interested in his meal.

Taking a pulse on my own needs can help too. Have I had enough water to drink today? Do I need to put on music to lighten the mood? Small changes that contribute to my own self-care help me feel happier during potentially stressful times or avoid a loss of patience altogether.

Advocating needs to be done nicely but persistently

From finding doctors and therapists who work best with our family to figuring out how to include my son in outings, I spend a lot of time advocating for a child who can’t speak up for himself.

I get angry when a facility isn’t accessible. Or when a teacher or therapist doesn’t understand my child. But expressing my anger never gets me a desired outcome. Now, I nicely explain what we need—and that goes for any situation involving any of my kids. If I don’t make progress with one person, I thank them for their time and look for someone else who may be more knowledgeable or confident making accommodations.

Most people are willing to help if they can and know how. But the way I approach the situation makes a big difference in their willingness to be supportive.

There’s often a rift in communication between educators and parents who suspect their kids have special needs. A parent describes the support that would have helped her initiate an assessment.

How to be an effective special needs parent

Even as young children, we’re able to identify a behavior that is not the norm for our peer group—the one kid in the class who seems a little more agitated than the rest, a little more loud and unruly. Across the room is a scared child. Another struggles with reading.

All of this may also be evident to a teacher, who can compare one child with his or her peers. But it may not be evident to the parent, who does not experience a whole classroom of children.

To the parent, a particular behavior may not seem beyond the norm. The first thing we parents observe is that our child is shy, or picky, or argumentative. We don’t observe that behavior and diagnose our child as anxious, having a sensory disorder, or oppositionally defiant. We see behaviors that we seek to modify, not categorize.

A Gap in Experience and Understanding

This opens up a rift in experience, understanding, and communication between parents and educators. Education specialists may speak in professional jargon that parents don’t always understand. An educator’s perspective on how a student’s behavior differs from that of his or her peers and on the demonstration of behaviors can be helpful to parents.

Parents are most often not mental-health experts, but they are experts in knowing their children. When they feel that something isn’t right, there’s reason to investigate. But most parents who have shared their experiences with me about asking for help for their children have not received it initially. Pediatricians may tell parents to be better disciplinarians. Teachers may say, “He doesn’t qualify for services.”

Many disabilities—most learning disabilities, most mental health disabilities, and many physical health disabilities—are hidden. A hidden disability is by its nature difficult to observe. Only someone trained in psychological assessment, using prescribed evaluation methods, can determine such a disability—educators generally don’t have this qualification.

State departments of education have standards for assessing and evaluating a child for special education services, yet being denied this assessment and evaluation is quite common. A discussion between the parent and teacher or principal may result in an evaluation, but parents are often forced to make repeated requests to push the issue. Parents may also not understand that requests for evaluation must be in writing.

Parents new to the individualized education program (IEP) process are then confused and angry. Worse yet, some parents accept the initial denial, and then the child does not receive an evaluation.

These problems generally occur because educators lack knowledge. In preparing general education teachers, most education programs don’t require a class on children with exceptional needs (gifted, special education etc.). States have tests and other assessments to evaluate the knowledge of an education program graduate, but even so, a teacher may not be able to recognize special needs or have knowledge about state regulations.

Parents look to teachers and principals to be experts. Not knowing what to do when a school declines to evaluate a child is a common dilemma for parents of children who are struggling. Advocacy groups may help, but a parent would need to understand that external help is available before they would seek it out. Many parents don’t understand the obligation of the school to evaluate their child, and they may not know how to push through a request for evaluation when facing resistance.

Directing Parents to Organizations That Can Help

It would be helpful if school staff referred parents to the appropriate state advocacy organization listed by the Center for Parent Information and Resources. This would steer parents toward a group that could help them to find answers.

In Kansas, our parent group, Families Together, answers questions, holds informational and training sessions for parents and education advocates, and shares documents to inform parents. No one in the school environment let my family know that this group existed, and it took us several years to find it. During that time, we felt isolated and confused. If only a teacher, principal, or district staff member had shared this information.

Hopefully a parent can initiate an assessment and evaluation. He or she will then be accosted with a host of acronyms and other special terms such as IDEA, IEP, BIP, and 504.

My personal experience has been that at no time were the evaluation process or special terms like IDEA, IEP, or 504 explained to me, and I have yet to encounter a parent for whom this did occur. The process of getting help for a struggling child is bureaucratic and complicated, and for the most part educators don’t mentor parents through it.

If they haven’t located an education advocacy group for assistance, parents usually lack the understanding needed to represent their children well through this process. Following an assessment and evaluation of a child, which requires special services to support that child’s education, the next step should be educating the parents about this process. Even a district FAQ website would be helpful. Parents should be part of their child’s education team, yet how can one contribute without a good understanding of the framework for special education services and an understanding of how accommodations can be implemented to help a child succeed?

Some educators and schools are amazing. But as a college professor and a parent of a child with an IEP, I have met students who have not been supported through the K–12 years or who received only minimal support to get them through the system. We can do better, starting from the first time a parent approaches a teacher and says, “I’m worried that Olivia seems to be struggling.”

A guide to Parenting Children with Special Needs

[fa icon=”calendar”] Mar 30, 2021 10:27:46 AM / by Eblity

How to be an effective special needs parent

Welcoming a specially-abled child in your family isn’t as easy as falling off a log. Cosmic questions and thoughts halt your consciousness. Where do we go? What to do? and perhaps the most salient of them all, why us?

Conceding that your child is different from normal kids takes you through an emotional roller coaster revolving around shock, denial, guilt, confusion followed by fear, grief, loss, powerlessness, disappointment and rejection. This may seem the end, but it isn’t .

Accept your child as he/she is differently-abled. Instead of looking down on him/her and mourning what had happened, embrace the flaws.

Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward together and finding the answer – Denis Waitley

Everyone is different, they will grow and develop at their own pace. Comparing your child with siblings, cousins, kids in the daycare class or even kids with the same disability will not make you feel any better. Your child is unique and you have to spend time with him/her.

Stop expecting, Start accepting.

Come what kind of impediments, spotlight the challenges and pains confronted by the child and work your way towards his/her growth. Get clued up about the medical, behavioural and psychological factors which are influencing his/her life.

Every state of affairs has a sanguine and a gloom-ridden outlook. Highlight the strengths and look for what is best.

Keep your behaviour plain simple. Make your goals and anticipations transparent. Be in touch with reality and progress one step at a time. For example, if your child isn’t able to walk then, don’t expect him/her to run. Express admiration and celebrate with him/her on the slightest of accomplishments.

Believe in your child, it’s going to be fine.

Take care of your mental health. Don’t coerce things on yourself. Your stress and anxiety will have an impact on your child. Do not hesitate to seek emotional assistance from your family.

Build friendships with parents who have children with disability and seek their guidance. Their experience will help you make better decisions. Knowing what to do and sharing your experiences will also elevate your emotional well-being.

We did not ask for this experience but it has made us better people. We are polished smooth by conflicts and pain of every kind.

Remember, you aren’t alone.

Written by: Ruchita Agrawal , a s published in Eblity.

About the author:

Ruchita Agrawal is a counsellor, psychologist and a special educator, currently pursuing PGDRP. Also, a proud mother of a differently-abled child.

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How to be an effective special needs parent

How to be an effective special needs parent

Written by Eblity

Eblity helps to craft and manage personalised plans for each student. Connect all the experts required to deliver student success.

How to be an effective special needs parent

As the parent of a child with special needs, I often replay the scene from those inflight safety videos where the grownup puts on her own oxygen mask before helping her child. On an airplane, taking care of ourselves first saves lives, because clearly, we won’t be much help to anyone if we’re passed out on the floor! When it comes to the day-to-day care of children with special needs, however, salvation may be more about toning down the stress so we can be more capable, competent and more effective advocates for our children. Easier said than done, though, right?

The Toll of Stress

If you’re a parent of a child with issues — or you have a friend who is — you know that on most days, stress and anxiety are par for the course. Research suggests that anxiety has a way of jamming our signals, so we’re less able to accomplish our goals, even if it’s just getting everyone to bed at a reasonable hour. Remember test-taking back in school and how those jitters turned your mind to mush? You might have second-guessed your answers, skipped sections by accident or simply stared blankly at questions to which you knew the answers only hours earlier. How much better might you have performed if you’d just been calm and clear-headed?

The same is true about parenting a special needs child, multiplied exponentially. Taking care of ourselves, taking steps to be happier and making a conscious effort to steady ourselves can mean the difference between a full-on tantrum and a crisis well-managed.

Bring on the Calm

So, how do we bring more peace into our frazzled lives? Try these strategies, which should fit into even the most chaotic schedules:

1. Join or create a support group for like-minded parents. Having a child with issues can be very isolating. Few stress-relievers are as effective as hearing other people share their story or receiving support from someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. Support groups can meet in someone’s home, online or at a local house of worship, and if there aren’t any groups in your area already, start one yourself! It is empowering to take control, and you’ll help others in the process.

2. Try yoga or meditation. Simply being conscious of slowing down your breathing can make you healthier, calmer and more capable of seeing things clearly. The added benefit is that you’ll also get fit, giving you more physical energy, which also helps with stress.

3. Take a pause. Make a concerted effort to simply pause for a few seconds before reacting to a stressful situation. Take a deep breath, count to five, or do both. It can help you avoid reacting impulsively and doing or saying things you’ll regret. Instead, the pause gives you time to think of a more effective strategy — or at least a more thoughtful response.

4. Say thank you. Grateful people tend to enjoy more positive emotions, vitality and optimism, and have lower levels of depression and stress, research shows. Next time you feel tense, prompt yourself to appreciate the things that are going well — even if it’s just sunny skies, a string of green lights when you’re in a hurry or the fact that no one is screaming or whining right in this one blissful moment.

5. Do what you love. It’s a luxury — and a necessity! Step outside your caretaker role once in a while and do things you really enjoy. It may feel self-indulgent to see a movie, get a massage, take a guitar lesson or sign up for a cake decorating class, but nurturing yourself deepens the reserve of emotional energy and patience that you have for your family.

Just like with the oxygen mask, if we do not take care of our needs, we will not be at our best. Only when we are functioning well physically, emotionally and spiritually can we address the often constant needs of our children. We owe it to them to take care of ourselves. Excuse me now while I go get a pedicure!

How to be an effective special needs parent

The Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is required for every public school offering special education and other related services. An IEP is a combined effort between you as a parent, the teachers, school administrators, and providers of specialized services. How you help craft and update your child’s IEP can do wonders in accelerating their learning progress.

The following are simple strategies that you can do to help update an IEP for your child to ensure all learning resources are maximized:

1. Gather Information Prior to the IEP Meeting

Establish a baseline by gathering sufficient information on your child’s current learning needs. Some of the best resources are found in school records and observation outside the classroom.

If this is your first ever IEP meeting, gather information pertaining to the reason your child is entering special education. Most of the reasons and needs will have already been documented, but be sure and provide any additional information and examples from outside of the classroom.

If you’ve had IEP meetings in the past, a good place to start is with your child’s prior IEP’s. Pay close attention to which goals have been mastered and which ones have not. Be sure to come prepared with specific questions for your child’s teacher and other professionals present at the meeting regarding these particular goals and lack of progress.

2. Articulate Your Child’s Strengths and Needs

The Individualized Education Plan will be the cornerstone of your child with special needs education and a large factor in their path to excellence. Make sure that when you’re participating in the updating of their IEP, you have articulated your child’s strengths and needs. In this case, pay close attention to your child’s strengths. In most cases being the best in the world in one particular skill can be more advantageous in life than being average in everything. Too often people only focus on the current challenges of children with special needs instead of continuing to build on their strengths. This will help other members of the team to come up with a detailed plan that will be appropriate for your child’s special needs and help guide them effectively.

3. Provide Ideas for IEP Goals

Provide other members of the team with ideas for IEP goals. If this is your child’s first IEP, focus on homework progress along with how proficient they are at self-skills. If your child with special needs has had IEP’s created in the past, compare previous goals with accomplishments and brainstorm ideas that can help improve those areas. Also, as previously mentioned focus on your child’s strengths. Write down observations you’ve made that showcase what skill or behavior your child with special needs excels in. Most importantly, make sure that you’re focused on goals that suit your child’s current needs and builds on their future success.

4. Ask For a Rough Draft Of the IEP

Once rough draft of the Individualized Education Plan is created, request a copy for review. Compare it with your child’s IEP from the previous year if available and make the necessary changes. Never be afraid to be a strong voice and advocate for your child. Other members of the team may try and overpower your decisions and ideas… do NOT let that happen. Most people involved in this process should be highly trained, however the ultimate goal is the success of your child. No one cares about your child’s success as much as you.

5. Be An Ongoing Advocate

Your role as a parent in creating an IEP doesn’t end once you’ve returned the revised draft. As an advocate of your child, you are encouraged to follow up with their teachers and the school administration to make sure that the plan is followed.

Crafting an effective IEP requires more than just coming up with a well-written learning plan. It calls for constant communication with the IEP team along with your support and assistance for your child with special needs. Too often, people are passive aggressive in situations that make them feel uncomfortable, not wanting to make a scene they often keep their true feelings to themselves. If at anytime you feel your child’s teacher isn’t fulfilling their needs , SPEAK YOUR MIND. This is not a time to hold back, in this case it’s your child’s future at stake.

Be Aware Of Alternative Assistance

We have come a long way since the beginning of special education in the United States. Today, there are a variety of options, resources and assistance available to ensure children with special needs reach their excellence. Options such as inclusion classrooms, self-contained classrooms, private and charter schools along with supplemental learning through special education tutoring.

As a parent, you want the best for your child in all facets of life. The world of special education can be confusing and often filled with red tape. Special Education Resource was created to help guide you through the struggle and frustration of finding what’s best for your child with special needs. One of the fastest ways to receive much sought after answers is by taking advantage of a free consultation with a special education tutor. These experts will be able to answer some of the toughest questions and point you in a direction that will help your child with special needs reach the success they’re after.

posted on April 12, 2019

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But what if you have no support network? Then what can you do? I know it may sound almost impossible, especially with everything else that you face on a daily basis, but it is so important. Perhaps now more than ever.

You need a support network. Even if it means building one yourself.

Table of Contents

What is special needs parent isolation?

Parenting is tough. This gig does not come with a manual and even if it did, there is no one-size fits all guide to parenting.

Add in parenting a child with special needs and well, things can get downright complicated and frustrating.

Highly rewarding at times, but complicated and frustrating.

At times it’s wonderful. And at times it’s ugly.

And if you’re a special needs parent, I can hear you saying: ain’t that the truth. Or “preach it.” Or maybe even, “well, duh.” Or something along those lines.

Point being, having a child with special needs can be difficult. It can be trying and there are days that you will reach levels of patience that you didn’t even realize you had. And sure, there’s the saying, God will only give you what you can handle.

Some days I would argue against that, but at the same time… Maybe there is some truth to be found in that. Maybe we can handle it, but let’s face it- it’s easier to do it with help than to try and do it alone.

We, as special needs parents, need support.

Benefits of an Autism Support Group for Parents

If you’re having trouble coping with your child’s autism diagnosis (not your child) in your life, autism support groups offer guidance, benefits and advice. Besides the family who is touched by autism, certain support groups also include educators, medical professionals, social service workers, policymakers, etc.

What are the benefits of joining a support group? First off, when members get together in groups like this, they can really help each other out by sharing information on medical or educational services, programs, and other resources available in the community, county, or state.

In groups like these, members can open up about their fears and worries. Knowing other families who are going through the same kinds of situations can really ease the sense of isolation, loneliness and frustration you may be feeling. You can get advice from others who may have experienced similar situations or problems and share your own coping techniques that worked for you.

These open discussions can often bring about realistic, logical solutions – exactly the type of support that families need!

Join me in Autism Family Life: a support group for parents, caregivers, and teachers. https://www.facebook.com/AutismFamilyLife

Who’s Who In Your Special Needs Support Network

Your support group can also invite experts on wide varieties of relevant topics to speak at the meetings or even publish little newsletters about local services, events and policies.

Autism support groups also serve other, perhaps less obvious and immediate, needs. As a group, members act as a united voice like any other special interest group and this allows you to present your concerns to school administrators, community leaders, etc.

Support organizations vary on what holds them together. But generally speaking, their main goals are to obtain direct services for children, and offer mutual support, training, advocacy, and a outlet of communication.

Some groups may arise out of the need to fill gaps in services while another may set up a child care program for young children with disabilities or open a home for young adults who are looking to be more independent. Organizations such as Parent-to-Parent (this group’s name changes depending on its location) serve parents who are looking for more understanding and practical ideas to help with raising disabled children. Groups like these connect parents with other families with disabled children.

Many groups offer training that can help you as parents to enhance your skills in raising children with disabilities.

Some groups have local, state, regional, and/or national offices with many members while others may have as few as three members. Remember, the group’s effectiveness is not determined by its size. All groups can play an essential role in providing information and family support and in addressing issues in a collective voice.

There are groups that are run entirely by volunteers and receive federal, state, or private funding to help pay for staff time, training, development and all the costs associated with maintaining the group.

You may find groups which have been established to meet the needs of other types of disabled children. If this group is concerned with similar issues, even if it isn’t specifically related to autism, this could still be a great option. What the group does is more important than what the group is called.

Who Else is In Your Support Network?

Aside from specific support groups for autism or special needs parents; reach out to friends, family members, fellow parents and caregivers, or your religious community if you’re involved in one. While this support may not be specific to your child’s special needs; having a support system in place is incredibly comforting.

Just being able to vent about every day life, or celebrating the joys of life with an understanding soul could do a world of good.

Diversify your support network.

Because sometimes yes, it is so easy to get caught up in the difficulties of raising a special needs child. And while connecting with parents of special needs children is crucial for your support network; don’t forget about the other aspects of your life.

Your support network also extends beyond support groups.

Your child’s teachers, therapists, service providers and coordinators- they are also an integral part of your support network. While you may not be able to call on them 24/7 or invite them into your home for a venting session over tea and coffee; they know your child.

When it comes to accessing services for them or making sure that they’re getting all of the correct services or if you’d just like to make a few home-to-school or school-to-home connections; your child’s teachers and therapists are a wealth of knowledge.

Special needs parents need support. There’s no denying that.

A support network should just be one of the tools that you utilize in your coping skills as a special needs parent.

Are you a special needs parent? Who’s in your support network?