You know, being the mother of a special needs child whose diagnosis’ includes: autism, central auditory processing disorder, sensory dysfunction, obsessive compulsive disorder, dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, I’m fairly well versed in what that entails. Upon first receiving the news of the diagnosis’ I spent more time researching than eating or sleeping or pretty much anything else. This was happening to my first born child, and I was GOING to understand it!
After compiling enough research to wonder why I hadn’t pursued a degree of some sort in the field, I decided that I needed an outlet to share it. So, I founded a family support group. And it wasn’t just your run of the mill “support group” because I wanted it to be all the things I couldn’t find when I was looking for a support group to attend. (I never did find one, by the way).
I had been looking for a support group just to have some like-minded parents to talk to, but every time I found one, upon further investigation, I realized I couldn’t go. By this time, we’d had our second child, our daughter, who was not special needs and was only a toddler. So, instead of either myself or my husband going, and one of us staying home to watch her, we just decided not to go because none of them offered child care. OR, of all things, they didn’t have anything for the special needs child, the reason we were suppose to be coming together in the first place!
One thing led to another, and I had finally reached the end of my rope. While dropping my son off to school one day, I stopped to talk to the Family Resource Center Director and was telling her of this dilemma. She asked me why I hadn’t started one myself, and at first, I simply laughed. Start a support group? Me? Why, I couldn’t do something like that! Ah, but you can, she told me with more excitement than I would have for awhile even myself 🙂
She went on to tell me about a grant that was being offered by our state mental health agency. This was the first I had even heard of such a thing, but listened to what she had to say as we walked to her office. She gave me the paperwork that she had printed off, just a bit earlier, and told me I should give it a try. I said I would think about it.
That night, I looked over the paperwork and realized it would be quite a job. I had to write a grant proposal, which didn’t seem like such a big deal. I’d been a “writer” all my life in one form or another, and the instructions looked pretty simple. It laid out everything I had to include: names of parents in the area who might be interested in going, what I hoped to accomplish, how I would spend the money, and a slew of other laundry-list items.
Over the next few days, little by little, I put everything together and mailed it off. It wasn’t that very much longer that I received a reply, and our little support group that had started from one parent’s desire to fill a need, got $1,000 for that year! To say that I was elated was the understatement of the year! I wouldn’t have made it without the help of that Director, and she helped me put everything together and it was wonderful while it lasted. I had to turn the group over to another wonderful friend I had made along the way when we moved out of the area.
Over the course of the 4-5 years or so, we got that grant each year. Our little group of – originally – three families, grew exponentially. We put together a lending library with books and other print resources, we offered referrals to specialists in every field imaginable that family of a special needs child might need, we hired students from our local community college who were pursuing careers surrounding special needs to provide activities and entertainment for our special needs children while someone else would oversee the siblings, and the two groups were always together, we had community outings monthly, to provide a group atmosphere in which to play and relax and by the last year, we were offering continuing education certificates to foster and adoptive families who attended our meetings and seminars where we would have expert speakers.
Our meetings were weekly, and for at least two of them, we would have special speakers who spoke on a variety of topics relating to life with a special needs child. There were experts in education, therapy, home-helps, medicine and an array of others. We always served refreshments and had a time of “visiting” before and after the meetings. It had become like family.
So if you’re in a situation where you see a need, and there’s any inkling of a chance that you could possibly do something to fill it – GO FOR IT! You might be surprised what you’ll wind up with.
So good luck! And thanks, as always, for stopping by to have a read.