The other day my sister asked if she could give my number to a friend who had a child with a “problem.” As a speech-language pathologist and mom of a child with autism, I get this request a lot. I never mind. Ever. Sometimes I’m able to allay a mom’s fears over a simple speech problem, and sometimes all I can do is offer a sympathetic ear.
When I met my sister’s friend, her son reminded me a lot of Rachel, but I couldn’t offer her much in-depth advice because I didn’t live in the area. So, I gave her the best advice I had followed myself: Find a support group.
A year ago, just a few months after Rachel’s diagnosis of severe autism, we found out that a local church was sponsoring a class for parenting special needs children. I almost jumped to sign up. The class was wonderful and I realized so many of the things I’d struggled with—isolation, fear of the future, grief, anger, frustration, and more—were very typical. Plus, I got to learn from families who were farther down life’s road and encourage people who were new to the world of special needs.
The class was such a blessing. We didn’t want it to end. Amy, one of the more energetic of our group—God bless her—decided to organize monthly meetings. I can’t tell you how great this has been. In addition to emotional support, we’ve shared information on doctors, schools, diet interventions, books, websites, family trials, fun places that are “special” kid friendly, therapists, and more. Without them I’d be floundering and very alone. Furthermore, we uphold each other spiritually. We point each other to the promises in God’s word and remind each other that God is in control even when things are way beyond our ability. And we laugh—even when it’s about scrubbing poop out of the carpet and what to do when your child floods the house.
These supportive sisters, and the occasional dad, have given me one of the greatest gifts I could ask for: hope. God doesn’t intend for me or anyone else to be alone in my burdens. When I am alone, or imagine that I am, I face the most discouragement.
I’m happy to tell you that my sister’s friend took my advice and went to a support group. She called my sister the next day and said it was one of the best things she’d ever done.
Here are some helpful links to getting connected with others who can help you.
- Autism support group info
- The National Association of Child Development has a link to parent groups with children of varying disabilities.
- Autism Speaks has a link to local parent groups. (You may need to change your state.)
- Other areas to look for support groups: Local special needs schools, special needs classrooms, or some of the larger churches in your area are likely to have opportunities geared toward families with special needs.