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5 Reasons I Changed My Mind About Going to Special Needs Parent Support Groups

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I was very resistant to the idea of going to a special needs support group. We felt we had plenty of reasons not to go. We don’t think of ourselves as a special needs family. And we were managing just fine. I thought a special needs support group was somewhere you go because you’re seeking help. Boy, was I wrong.

Here’s what I learned from going to a special needs support group, and why I think you, too, should try going at least once.

1. Everyone is just like you. 

Some days, having a child with a condition that necessitates greater-than-average medical care can feel isolating. You feel like you’re the only one trudging from appointment to appointment, lugging your binders and being hit with off-the-wall medical terms. Guess what — you’re not the only one. Every parent or caregiver had a child with a diagnosis or a child for whom they were struggling to find a diagnosis. These people got it. These people knew what it was like. There is comfort in solidarity.

2. Everyone is also different.  

People talked about feeding tubes and seizures and caring for nonverbal kids. I couldn’t identify with any of those things. But that was the point. I didn’t have to or need to. Each family has their own “hard.” As we all went around the room giving a short summary of our kids and their needs, we were all likely thinking the same thing: “Oh, I could never manage that.” But all we have to do is work with what’s in front of us.

3. Laughter is the best medicine. 

Some of the things we laughed at were funny, some were darker. But that laughter with those families was a shared communion and a reminder: No matter how complicated life gets, you can always laugh.

4. Tears heal. 

When I walked into the room, I noticed coffee, brownies and a box of tissues. One of those things seemed out of place. But even an airline pilot doesn’t travel as much as that box of tissues did. I think it circled the room twice. Sometimes the hurt and the heartache and the fear gets buried down deep. This was a safe place to lay down some of it.

5. Free child care. 

The local church where I attended special needs group had childcare for children with special needs and their siblings. Need I say more?

girl riding wheelchair in the woods
Jessica’s daughter.

Follow this journey on In Pursuit of Living Loud.

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Originally published: February 9, 2016
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