Wow - it's been a year! I actually cannot believe that. If you have been to our meetings before, I apologize ahead of time for repeating myself. I usually recount our story for people who are new to our group. I met my co-founder Lindsay Bartholomew in the lobby of The Children's Center in Salt Lake, in December of 2010, while waiting for our kids to get out of the therapy preschool class they were enrolled in. Both of our kids had been attending there for about a month or two and I finally had the courage to ask her if she had received some sort of orientation after diagnosis. The 'how to' guide to what's next for you, your child and your family? She chuckled at the idea, but was also a bit nervous that perhaps I really had, and she had somehow missed it! But no.
We quickly struck up a friendship and began sharing the struggles and small successes we were having with our kiddos. Immediately, I think we were both feeling better, just having someone that speaks our language. Someone that knows why shoes are often the enemy, that food is often limited to yogurt and peanut butter, and that friendship to our kids meant that they let that person exist nearby and did not try to kill them, but had no real intention of playing with them. Over the coming months we talked more and more, but then wanted to know more. I wanted to know who the great pediatrician was, who was the great OT that could get my kid to eat and more importantly, there had to be more people out there like us? There had to be other people who were struggling and wanted to share their experiences, their fears, their grief in having to admit to themselves and others that their child is a child with special needs.
We immediately went on the search for a support group and attended an evening out sponsored by a popular one. We were excited, nervous and anxious to finally get the answers to all of the 10,000 questions we had. I served myself my salad from the salad bar and immediately sat down next to a group of women, one of which smiled at me, said hi, and before she could put the fork to her lips, out came the 10,000 questions I had for her. I was on a quest to compare her experience to mine. What was I not doing for my child? What had I not thought of, or heard of? Eager on my heals was Lindsay, pen in hand and equally thrilled that we might be getting some answers to some of our most fervent questions. I whole heartily believe that everything in life happens for a reason. For what happened next is the reason we have our group. The smile gradually faded from this woman's face and she did not answer but two of the 10 opening questions I had for her. Then she grimaced an excusing look and grabbed her tray and went to another table. At first, I was shocked and hurt. When I get hurt, I usually get angry. Now that a year and a half has passed, I realized that many parents in this group were parents of special needs teenagers. In essence, they have been at this a while. They probably just wanted to go out with other adults and forget about life for a while. Lord knows I can appreciate the sentiment. But I needed answers and when the second or third person suggested that we start a group like the one we were looking for, we finally had to concede that the help we wanted was not coming. We needed to help ourselves.
Since last July, we have held 23 meetings (one Davis group was canceled in a snow storm), had several special guest presenters, one story in the paper, blogged about our struggles and it is only getting bigger and better. We are working hard on becoming a non-profit, so that we can continue to grow and provide even more programs for the people like us, the newbie. We have regular attendance at our Salt Lake Group of 12-15 and in Davis 7-10 people. Today there are only two people, a couple actually that still attending our Salt Lake meeting, that were there last July, in that steamy basement of the Rose Park Public Library. Those two people and one other came and we all shared our challenges and triumphs and learned about all sorts of programs in our community of like minded people. I cannot even begin to describe the euphoria I had that night, but I can say that Lindsay and I had grins from ear to ear. We did it! It has been a great journey this year. Lindsay is the greatest, loyal, loving and dedicated mother I know and a great friend and leader with this group. It would not be nearly as organized without her.
Cheers! Here is to many more years of connecting with you parents out there who need answers to your questions. We are here for you. If you can please try an attend our retreat this weekend and if not we look forward to meeting you in our groups starting in September.
To provide a place for parents and family members to meet monthly and share experience, strength, give hope and awareness, to other families who have similar experiences raising children with ASD, ADD/ADHD, SPD, Anxiety and other mental health, developmental or behavioral struggles. Through sharing in this experience of raising these ‘hard to raise’ kids, we grow stronger and more resilient.