Connecting with other Solo Moms of children with special needs
Pushing my daughter—who has developmental delays—in the swing at the park, I fix my gaze on her. She looks too big for the baby swing, but she doesn’t have the strength or skills to swing in the big-kid swing.
Another mom lifts her baby into the swing next to us. I make a conscious decision to look up and offer a small smile. She starts asking me about my daughter, making conversation. “How old is she? What a cute hat. Where did you get it?”
It’s one of those moments when we Solo Moms wish we had backup. Do I want to tell her about my daughter or just offer one-word responses? Then she turns to the four-year-old in the stroller next to her. He has a slinky toy in his hand and is completely absorbed in making it shake against his ear. She asks him if he wants to swing. I can hear the pleading in her voice. She wants him to play at the park like the other kids, and he is—but not the way most kids play. She looks down and then I know: she is also a mom raising a kid with special needs. We let our guards down and talk, creating a circle around us. At last, someone who understands.
Connecting with parents who are also raising kids with differences can be a lifeline, but the process of finding them is not always easy. Here are some tips that can help:
- Do things. Go to a park, play at a creek, visit petting zoos—places that work for your child.
- Be willing to say hello. Someone has to take the first step!
- Start a support group. According to the Center for Parent Information and Resources (and through funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs), “Every state has at least one Parent Training and Information Center (PTIC),” and “many states also have a Community Parent Resource Center (CPRC).” You can find a PTIC or CPRC near you by clicking here. Through these statewide centers are parent listservs that you can join. You can also make flyers or cards to hand out when you are at a therapist’s office. You can ask your local Arc chapter or CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) group to announce you are forming a group, and you can start with just two of you, as I did with the mom I met at the park.
- Look online for groups in your area that offer support and resources for a specific disability. There are groups for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, Down syndrome, and others in my town. One mom just told me about how she got together with other families who have children with Down syndrome to watch a movie that featured a character with Down syndrome. “It was powerful,” she said.
- Form a meet-up group. For those who live in urban or suburban areas, it’s easy to form a meet-up group with other Solo Moms. Choose a public place to meet, such as a park, and try to meet regularly—maybe weekly or once a month.
- Use online chat groups or Facebook groups to connect, especially if your child has a rare disability or medical condition. And there are conferences for almost every disability. Some expect the children to come, making it almost feel like a real vacation.
Anna Stewart is ESME’s Kids with Special Needs Resource Guide and the Solo Mom of a daughter and two sons on the brink of adulthood. She’s a champion for the rights of people living with disabilities and those who love them.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.