When you have a loved one with special needs you need support! Some days more than others, of course. Those early days right after finding out about a diagnosis may feel like a blur, but that is the time to begin to reach out and locate resources for support for you, your family and your loved one.
WHO—Who can offer support? Hopefully the professionals giving you the diagnosis will give you information on local resources in your area. Look to them for support. Perhaps there is a local, state, or national organization related to your loved one's disability or special need that you can connect with. Churches or other religious organizations offer support. Look to your friends and family, though they may be struggling themselves to understand what is happening with your loved one, they can still be a great source of encouragement. In fact, it would be very helpful to get them involved with your support search. There are professionals such as counselors, social workers, psychologists, etc. and you should never hesitate at any point to involve them in your search for support for yourself, or any member of your family! There are sibling groups, Father's groups, Mother's groups, and even Grandparent support groups for varying disabilities these days. We now have the Internet and there are vast resources for support there, but be cautious about how and what you share unless you “know” the group in real life.
WHAT—What does support look like? Well it can be as simple as another person just listening to your story and offering encouragement. Support can be in the form of a group made up of people who have been through, or are going through and can relate to what you are going through and keep you from feeling like you are alone. It can be your loved one's teacher sending a note home telling you what a great job your loved one is doing! Sharing your moments that only someone “in the know” could laugh along with you, on Facebook at 1 AM is wonderfully supportive.
WHY—Why do we need support? Support is our foundation when we have our low points. Loving someone who has special needs is more than a full-time job and is like a roller coaster. There will be ups and downs and we need a strong foundation and lots of props to lean upon during those moments when we stumble.
No matter where you are on your journey with your loved one with special needs know that support is a vital part of that journey. You may be at the beginning stages or pretty far into the journey, but know that we are all in this together. Supporting one another is how we share information on coping strategies, medical interventions, public policy and financial information, camps, and loads more.
So go share, go support and be supported!