Support for parents of special-needs kids

Dear Sharon,

My son has been diagnosed as being on the spectrum. I feel depressed and angry and unable to cope. It’s not his fault, and I feel myself failing him. What kind of counseling do I look for? I need help but I don’t know where to begin.

Dear Parent,

Your reaction to your son’s diagnosis is more than understandable. There are many parents who have experienced similar responses and have begun to feel less overwhelmed once sufficient information and support are in place.

When seeking help, I think it is best to find professionals who have worked with or parented a child with special needs. It is hard for anyone who hasn’t personally been exposed to the emotions and responsibilities that come with parenting a special-needs child to empathize with what moms and dads can go through.

One excellent place to begin a search for assistance is the Brooklyn Public Library’s “The Child’s Place for Children with Special Needs.” Located at the central branch at Grand Army Plaza, it offers information and a variety of referrals to organizations throughout New York that service families with special-needs children. It also hosts a variety of programs.

This spring there are workshops on advocacy and handling challenging behaviors as well as a Music for Autism concert. See www.bklynlibrary.org/only-bpl/childs-place for more information. I also believe that one of the most effective ways to counteract the depression, frustration, and isolation that can come with parenting a child on the spectrum is to meet other parents who are confronting similar challenges. Whenever a parent can tell that she is not alone with the difficulties she faces, it can make a world of difference.

Joining a parent list such as BrooklynSpecialKids@yahoogroups.com can provide moms and dads with immediate online access to discussions and information from other parents juggling similar demands.

Becoming a member of a parents of special needs support group can also prove to be indispensable. Finding a safe place to regularly share personal joys and frustrations while listening to others who are confronting similar challenges often provides an invaluable source of practical ideas, strength, and consolation. Members of groups also can form lasting friendships with parents who “understand.”

Of course, keeping personal pediatricians regularly informed is important for medical and emotional support. They can also provide information about local community resources to turn to for a variety of services.

I personally know that the shock waves that follow an upsetting diagnosis can feel overwhelming at best. After parenting several children with special needs and talking to many parents who have done the same, I am consistently inspired. Watching parents and children with special needs grow and flourish as they form deep, loving bonds, learn to appreciate their strengths, and realize their unique potential, is truly remarkable.