When my son was newly diagnosed with autism about a decade ago, I couldn’t fathom going to a support group. I thought it would be too overwhelming, or that hearing stories from other parents would make me insecure about my own parenting abilities.
In fact, the first time I went to a support group, it wasn’t on purpose. The group happened to schedule their meeting for the same time and place as my son’s therapy appointment, so I joined, planning not to share anything.
However, I did start to listen. What I heard helped me feel less alone and was amazingly beneficial to me as a parent. Today I get to pass along that gift by helping several support groups run smoothly as one part of my position at ChildServe in Iowa City.
Whether you’re like me from ten years ago (brand new to a diagnosis and a little lost), or you have a few years of experience under your belt, there are many benefits a support group can provide. Here are 5 examples that I hope will encourage you to try one out:
- Knowledge that You’re Not the Only One: Outside of the group, I thought of many questions, but I didn’t know who to ask, or if I would look silly for asking. At support group, I heard people asking the same questions that I had. I realized that I wasn’t alone, and that many parents shared my same doubts and concerns.
- Confidence to Ask: For the first time since the diagnosis, I felt that I could ask questions without being judged. No one was going to make me feel like a bad parent because I didn’t know something.
- New Ideas: I heard about some of the best resources for our family from listening at support groups. It feels like you never stop learning. Even now as support group facilitator, I learn new things all the time and have found new resources to share and to try with my son.
- Support Through Transitions: As he got older, my son’s challenges have changed. There are constantly new things to consider as he grows older that I didn’t need to think about when he was younger. Groups have many members and parents who are all experts in their own right. We can learn from each other no matter which stage we’re at!
- Community: The idea of meeting new people or making friends can be overwhelming. However, no one can do life alone. Support groups are a place where connecting with others can come more easily.
I love support groups – but I know from experience that it’s so hard to take those first steps. There is no shame in going to a support group or asking for any type of help that you need, but the hardest step is that first step through the door. I encourage you to be brave and take it!
If you’re curious about what support groups are available in your community, ask your therapist, social worker, or other ChildServe team members about how to get started.
ChildServe improves the health and well-being of nearly 4,500 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, acquired injuries, and other special healthcare needs.