Support is incredibly important for parents of children with special needs, and there is a multitude of it available in the form of internet support groups. All you have to do is place your child’s condition in the Facebook search bar and click on “groups.” Be sure to check out how each group interacts, if questions receive a good amount of answers, and that the interaction is every hour or so (as opposed to a new post every other week). You want to select a group that posts regularly, is managed by a strong group leader (to weed out off-topic posts), and is supportive. You can also always join a few groups and leave the ones that you find unhelpful.
Here are five ways Facebook support groups supply fundamental encouragement, knowledge, and understanding:
Your mom, sister, or friend might not always understand what your child or you are going through, but another parent facing the same situation and frightening diagnosis can.
Many parents who join online support groups are astonished when they read post after post detailing what could be a day in their own life. It is an unbelievable feeling to know that you are not alone, and people really do understand.
There is no better detective than a mother with a sick or debilitated child. Even doctors that specialize in your child’s condition do not know the daily struggles that your child faces, nor do they know the special tricks that can work for getting and keeping your child happy despite her circumstance.
Even more importantly, there are many times when your child may be encountering a late-night symptom, which is not an emergency, but it’s keeping you wide awake. It is often then that a parent will post a question and get flooded with answers for what other parents did in the same situation, or what helped alleviate the child’s distress.
In addition, there is also no one else who can recommend a doctor, hospital, or therapist in your area who effectively treats your child’s condition other than a parent who has visited that doctor or practice. The last thing that a parent or child needs is visiting a doctor who does not know about your child’s condition, does not effectively treat it, or is condescending and a hindrance rather than a help. (And as special-needs parents know, far too many of these exist!)
Facebook groups often a have a list, categorized by state, of top doctors and hospitals for your child’s condition.
The Facebook groups are typically closed groups online, so only users in that group can read posts, which means that people on your friends’ list cannot view them (unless they are members of the same group).
That is an important component, because it really allows parents to share information and feelings without judgment from in-laws, family, and friends who simply don’t understand. It also allows a free space to vent.
Having a child with special needs requires a fierce fortitude and an often overwhelming amount of time and focus, all of which can leave a mom or dad feeling isolated and alone. Parenting can pose a challenge to meeting new friends and socializing, but special-needs parenting is an even larger trial. Facebook groups allow a safe place for a group of moms and dads who can discuss, vent, laugh, cry, and relate to each other on a whole new level.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, is a parenting writer and editor. Born and bred in Brooklyn, she specializes in health, lifestyle, and pets, and also writes for ASPCA Parents and Disney’s Babbl