As we’ve mentioned previously, parents raising children with special needs may often feel alone in their challenges or struggles. However, the special needs community is unique in that it offers a significant amount of support to families. There are national associations, parent to parent support groups, state-by-state Parent Training and Information Centers and Community Parent Resource Centers, and a vast number of social media support communities. To help you find your best fit, you can read a bit about each parent support group below.
Parent to Parent Support Groups
Parent to Parent programs across the country provide informational and emotional support to families with children with special needs, in part by matching newer parents looking for support with a more experienced, knowledgeable “support parent.” Parent to Parent programs exist in most states, but if there aren’t any in yours, a neighboring state will be able to provide a match so that every parent seeking support is able to attain it. These programs are inclusive and assist families with children or adults with special needs of all ages. Additionally, most programs offer support across many disabilities, health care needs, and mental health challenges. This may include children who have AIDS, behavioral and emotional challenges, and or children with acquired disabilities or who are born prematurely.
There are a number of large national associations that provide support for families and individuals with disabilities. For example, the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS) serves families with a child who has Down syndrome. Their mission is to provide families with adequate resources and information to enable them to access and evaluate services, educate the public about Down syndrome, and address policy issues. NADS offers a wide variety of services, including parent support, public awareness programs, seminars, and retreats, among other things. Likewise, The National Autism Association (NAA) offers similar services to families with autistic members. These and other leading organizations intend to broaden support services and awareness outside of the special education community.
Parent Training and Information Centers (PTI) exist in every state due to IDEA, which provides money for each state to have at least one PTI. These centers help the families of children with all types of disabilities from birth to age 22. The main goal of the centers is to provide parents with support and information on how to maximize their child’s educational opportunities. The centers provide parents with information about “specific disabilities and issues, parental and child rights under IDEA, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and support groups, educational specialists, legal assistance, and other local state and national resources” (for more information, click here). Many states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRC), which offer comparable services.
Along with established national organizations of support, the special education community is very active on social media. Through this medium, individuals and groups alike are able to offer significant support to parents seeking information or emotional support. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are especially vibrant forums for this community, and any parent looking for support would find it with ease. There are countless accounts dedicated to raising children with disabilities and organizations looking to offer services or support.