Thursday, July 23, 2015

Parent Groups

If your child is struggling with school due to a physical, emotional, or learning problem, one source for help is a parent group. There are groups for parents of children with all types of challenges: autism, dyslexia, attention deficit, Downs Syndrome, emotional problems, physical problems - you name it and there is probably a group aimed at giving you some help.

How does a group help? At the international or national level these groups or associations are a one-stop place for research, legal help, and government requirements and timetables for public education. Most of these groups have conferences that update their members on research, teaching methods, and legislation concerning their children. These groups usually have contact numbers for state and local groups.

Local groups are a place to turn for more individualized needs. They may provide mentors (people who help parents navigate the labyrinth of special education in the U.S. public schools), lists of local resources including respite care, and support group activities. These groups often help educate the community, as well as parents and teachers. If your community does not have a local group (and you don't want to organize one) you may find a group of listeners on the Internet. 

How do you find these groups? Every state has a Parent Information Center which helps with "disability related, early intervention, special education or transition questions." Obviously the Internet is a great resource. Many schools can give you the names of local or national groups. Parents, teachers and social workers may also be a source for information. Another parent may guide you to a group or just become a friend who listens.

I think many people will find a support group beneficial. But before you join, remember:
  • Every child is different. In a small group you have to deal with others concerns and attitudes which may be different than yours.
  • You may meet people who swear by a product or method which is not backed by research. You may meet people who swear by research that may not prove effective with your child, or research that will be updated in the near future.
  • The assertive, outgoing parent may dominate a group, but the quiet or shy person may have the excellent information you really need.
  • You are joining a group to help you help your child. Don't force yourself to give the group more time than you have. Some people need to hear the worst to deal with it. Others become overwhelmed and stressed just talking about what may happen. You may outgrow a group.  You may decide to start a new group. Take what you need from a group, give what you can, and stay as long as you perceive it as a help.

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