Parenting is by far the most challenging thing I will ever do. Parenting a child with special needs takes that challenge to a whole new level. I will basically talk to anyone who will listen about my kids. I want to learn from other parents. I want to help them in any way I can. I’m a talker. I’m a sharer. It’s benefited me (and therefore my children) in many ways. Often times I get a phone call from a friend who has a friend with a kid “just like yours” who could use some advice. I’ve fielded many calls about IEP meetings, scholarships, special schools, doctors. You name it—I’ve recommended it.
One day it hit me to bring the discussion to Facebook in a private way. I have often felt so alone trying to make the best decisions for my kids; I couldn’t imagine how the more private people must feel. One night I started a private group called “Special Moms with Special Kids.” In the description I put, “This is a group for amazing moms just trying to do the best we can for our kids with special needs.” I added a few of my friends to the group. Almost immediately the conversations started. People were introducing themselves and their special needs children. The kiddos ranged from ADHD and autism to Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. This wasn’t a place to talk about those disorders—it was a place for moms to vent, get advice, and not feel so alone.
What surprised me the most were the Facebook friends of mine who joined the group who I thought didn’t have children with any issues at all. I was wrong. Dozens of people I knew asked to join the group to talk about their child on the autism spectrum or on ADHD medication. I had never heard them mention a word about it before. They are obviously more private than me, and must have felt so alone.
Within two weeks, we had more than 80 active members and the conversations were great. I made it clear that everything said in the group would stay private and confidential. Everyone was so encouraging. When someone would post a question about a medication or a doctor’s visit, other moms chimed in with advice. We prepped each other for dreaded IEP meetings. We encouraged each other when someone was having a bad day.
The best thing happened when someone posted about having trouble getting their child with sensory issues to sleep. My friend Audrey posted about how she had recently made a sheet she described as “Spanx for your bed” for her son with sensory issues. He was able to slide in between the fitted sheet and the sensory sheet. The snugness helped him fall asleep and stay asleep. It was magic. Instantly moms started asking Audrey to make one for them. She added the link to her Etsy shop and started selling them at her cost to help as many families as she could. All because of a Facebook group.
Now, when one of us is having a bad day or needs some shoulders to cry on, we have each other. This special group of moms (some of us friends, some of us strangers) has become therapy for each other. Every few days someone thanks me for adding them to the group and tells me how helpful it has been to not feel all alone. I’m thrilled that they feel that way, and I hope that the group continues to grow and thrive. I may have started the group to help others, but it ended up helping me more than I ever could have imagined.
If you have a special needs child and could use some support and advice from moms who have been there, join us.