Getting Started: Finding LD Parent Support Groups

Parents of LD children often talk about feeling lonely.  In a world of Facebook brag-posts, in a world where moms compare achievements as a way to say hello, LD moms often feel as though they just don’t belong.

Rubbish.  LD kids belong, and you deserve to have support.  Here’s how to get it:

Find Other Kids in Your Area

Finding a local support group can be great, because you can practice social time with your children together at the park.  And of course, when the kids are occupied, you can socialize as adults!  

A surprising number of children have learning differences, bumps in development, or a brain that simply takes longer to mature and come together.  There are a lot of unevenly-developing kids out there, as well as kids who have learning challenges. And many of them are awesome.

How do you find them?  You open your mouth and say “My child has [name your learning difference] and I’m looking for other kids with learning challenges. Do you know any?”  Guaranteed, one in three parents will know someone. You can say this at the grocery store, at your dentist … you’ll be shocked at how many people “know someone.”  Just remember the statistics: 20% of children have dyslexia and up to 15% of boys have been diagnosed with ADHD. That’s a lot of children.

You can set up park days, lunches with other parents, or even a local email list.  You will find strength and the support you need in talking with other parents — always. And chances are, your child might find a friend with similar challenges.  

Finding an LD Parent Support Group

Probably the most effective thing that you can do is to find other parents of children like yours.  They can give you support and advice. They have been where you are. There’s a special power when you find a parent whose child had the same type of early challenges as yours — and she tells you how well he is doing now.

You will find parents of children like yours in various support groups. It’s easiest to find a support group online.  Facebook has some of the largest support groups, many centered around your child’s diagnosis or challenge.

Parents on support groups for parents of children with learning differences are smart, hard-working, resourceful, and endlessly supportive.  Online support groups rock. And they have great ideas and wisdom. 

If you are deeply involved in helping your child with learning differences, it’s natural to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about issues, worrying about things, and even trying to come up with ideas.  It’s hard, with such a specialized interest, to tell all of this to just your family and friends. Even the most tolerant friend gets tired of hearing about some of the constant problems that parents of children with learning differences have. 

That’s why you can rely on your online support group.  The group selects itself. Every parent in the group is deeply interested in this topic.  And many LD parents have walked in your shoes. Learning to reach out to a support group can be good for close friendships because you don’t have to rely on your friends (who often know nothing about learning differences) for all of your support.  

Parent to Parent is a mostly-national organization that provides emotional and informational support for families of children with special needs.  They will match you with a mentor. There is also a Spanish version of this organizatio, called Padre a Padre.

The Understood website has community forums.

The LD Online website has a list of parent advocacy groups.

Deborah Reber’s Tilt Parenting website is putting together Differently Wired Parent Groups. These are mostly for Asperger’s and ADHD-flavor children, but really, if your child is different, you’re welcome.

Learning Abled Kids is a disabilities support group with many different resources.

Decoding Dyslexia is a parent-led grassroots movement for dyslexia that provides support groups.

And you can simply go to Facebook and type in the name of any diagnosis to find a robust and active parent support group.  Make sure that any group that you join is “private” so that your posts are kept just to the group, and be careful about sharing private information with Facebook groups in particular.

What Do Support Groups Offer?

Ideas for Effective Parenting
Every child is a unique bundle of maturity, likes and dislikes, skills, passions, and challenges — and that’s just the start. Parents you meet in a support group will often be able to tell you what worked for their child and how it tied in with their specific needs.

 Learn about Successes
In a support group, you can meet parents who have raised children like yours, or adults who have the same learning profile as your child. Meeting and hearing about their successes can help both you and your child.

 Get Referrals and Suggestions
Since you can explain your exact situation in a support group, users will often tell you exactly what (or who) they used for their similar situation, including personality, maturity level, or a particular behavior problem.  You’re dealing with parenting problems, not just medical or developmental issues. It’s a great way to get a referral or suggestion, for everything from a doctor, to a book, a therapy, or even a technique.

 Reduce Stress
Sharing your feelings is a proven method of managing stress. Helping other people can also reduce stress, so the natural sharing as you talk in a parent support group can help you take care of yourself.

Consider a Special Education PTA Group

Does your school have a PTA group?  In addition to finding LD parent support groups, you might want to look into a SEPTA, or Special Education PTA group.  A SEPTA can let all of the special education parents in one school get together and work on school issues together and with teachers.  Here’s information on how to start a SEPTA in your school.  The regular PTA also can offer support.  The Parenting Special Needs website has an article about how the regular PTA can support special education parents.

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