Guest blogger Karen Jackson is visiting Different Dream this week to finish her series about how to find special needs parenting support. If you missed the first part of the series, you can find it in Part 1.
How To Find Special Needs Parenting Support, Part 2
#5: Professional Support
I have seen quite a few mental health professionals over the years and this has been invaluable to me as I continue on this unique parenting journey. I just told someone the other day that I think everyone who is a parent of a child with a disability needs to have a professional counselor to talk to at some point. As a Christian, I have mainly found Christian therapists and counselors to work with, but what really matters is that you find someone you feel comfortable with and that has some experience with the issues you face.
Recently, I have worked with a pastoral counselor in the area where I live. I found that talking with someone who can help me navigate through the challenges of leading a ministry on top of a full life as a mom and teacher has been extremely helpful.
#6: Online Support
A few years ago I started to use Facebook and never anticipated that social media could be a source of personal support. Late one night, however, I was still up at 12:00 am, unable to sleep and very upset over my daughter’s recent bout with self-injurious behavior and aggressiveness. I opened my Facebook page and saw that a friend that leads a ministry in another part of the country, (Barb Dittrich with Snappin’ Ministries) was online. I personal messaged her and asked for prayers. She and I messaged back and forth several times. I was so grateful for that support in the middle of the night!
I have come to realize more and more that people isolated like those parenting children with special needs often are, use social media and online connections for vital support.
Despite all the things we hear that are negative about using social media, I believe the development of the many blogs, websites and online groups are extremely valuable to the disability community and parents in particular.
#7: Faith Community and Other Community Groups
Getting involved in my church and starting Faith Inclusion Network (FIN) have also been a source of personal support. As we all know, channeling our experience into ways to help others is always therapeutic in some way. I am blessed to know many people in my own church and faith communities all over our region through my work with FIN. You don’t have to start a big effort, though to get involved. Just be present and look for opportunities to volunteer and be a part of your faith community. It is likely you will find people to support you as you help and support them.
#8: Personal Faith
As people of faith know, the emotional and practical support of friends, acquaintances, support groups and professionals are not a substitute for our loving God. I believe that God uses all these people to help me, but I also know I can go directly to Him.
In 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, a favorite scripture of mine.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and
the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”
I am thankful for the many ways I receive help and support in my life and grateful that I am able, even if I am still learning, to give that support to others. I pray that if you are the parent of a child with special needs reading this that you find the support you need through family, friends, professionals and community, but mostly, I pray that you find that comfort and support through our amazing and compassionate Lord.
How Do You Find Special Needs Parenting Support?
Do you have a special needs parenting support group? We’d love to hear how it came to be. Leave a comment!
Karen Jackson is the Executive Director of FaithInclusion Network of Hampton Roads where she lives with her husband and three children in Norfolk, VA. She is also the author of the recently published book, Loving Samantha.
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