A support group is a great way to get practical advice and emotional support from local parents who have kids with learning and attention issues. Starting a group can be very rewarding. Here are four key questions to think about before you begin.
1. What kinds of support groups already exist in your area?
Before you start your own group, it’s a good idea to find out what’s already out there. You might try attending meetings of support groups in your area. Observe how each one is structured. Consider what you do and don’t like about each. This can help you figure out what you’d like to see in your own group.
For example, you might really enjoy a particular support group for parents of kids with learning and attention issues. But you may realize you want a chance to spend more time talking specifically about dyspraxia. By attending that support group’s meetings, you may find enough parents of kids with dyspraxia to start a sub-group that gets together an hour before the regular meeting.
2. What style of support group do you want to start?
You might want an informal get-together where parents share information about tutors and classes. You might want a group that focuses on emotional support, with a moderator leading discussions about parents’ challenges and feelings. Or maybe you want a structured program with speakers and demonstrations.
If you’re not sure what you’d prefer, talk to parents who you think might be interested in joining. It’s also a good idea to decide who’s “in charge” of the group. Having a few people help organize meetings is great. But too many cooks in the kitchen can get complicated quickly. Including a co-leader who can share responsibilities and do some of the planning could be fun and helpful.
“It’s also a good idea to decide who’s ‘in charge’ of the group.”
It’s also important to decide what your group is not about. For example, parents of kids with autism spectrum disorder or other types of disorders might see your group as a great opportunity. But they’re likely to be disappointed by the focus on learning and attention issues. Being clear about this upfront can prevent frustration for everyone involved.
3. Who can help you get the word out about your group?
Schools can’t give you the names of people who might be interested in your group. Schools are bound by confidentiality. But schools can include a notice about your group in the school newsletter or put a flyer on the school bulletin board. Other places that might help promote your group include libraries, bookstores, the YMCA, houses of worship and your local government website.
You can also try to recruit local parents through Facebook. Or you could look in forums on a website for a state or national organization dedicated to addressing your child’s particular issue. The Understood online community can also be a good way to connect with parents in your area.
4. Will you need funding for your support group?
An informal group that meets in a parent’s home probably won’t require funds. You can ask members to bring a snack to share at meetings, help with creating flyers or donate money to cover other costs.
But if your goal is to start a larger group, you may need to rent a meeting space, print and mail announcements and newsletters, provide refreshments and pay fees to speakers. You may be able to find local businesses that will donate space or help cover costs. Check with the Chamber of Commerce and groups like Kiwanis and Lions Clubs. Houses of worship often have free or low-cost space.
You can also contact your State Disabilities Council or the Department of Mental Health to get a list of funding sources where you live.