Six years ago, Laurie Barone movedfrom Florida to Lewisville with herhusband and two boys—Ben, 18, whohas Asperger’s syndrome, and Cade,10, who has autism spectrum disorder.“I was feeling totally overwhelmed and starting tofreak out,” Barone admits. “We moved away fromboth sets of grandparents and a strong churchfamily, and here, I felt on my own and alone.”
She started attending monthly meetings forparents with kids with special needs throughthe Lewisville ISD, and these meetings providedlots of helpful info, but that’s not what Baroneneeded. She wanted a social outlet, somewhereshe could decompress, recharge and come backto her family feeling refreshed.
Parents who have childrenwith special needs really needcommunity, support and someoneto lean on when life getstoo hard, when they feel likethrowing in the towel, says VioletaKadieva, family therapistand professor at Texas WesleyanUniversity in Fort Worth. “Asthe daily caretaker, moms (inmany cases, not all) can experiencegreat stress that couldbecome catastrophic,” she says. “It can lead toemotional exhaustion and complete burnout.”Or something worse. Prolonged stress has been linked to heart and lung disease, digestive issues,infertility, anxiety, depression and more.So Kadieva encourages these moms to seek outsupport groups, get therapy and find ways torelease stress through mindfulness, meditation,focusing on the present and taking care of yourself,which includes these social outlets.
And though going to dinners, wine tastingsand other events with other parents whounderstand the fatigue and challenges that comewith parenting a child with disabilities can bevery therapeutic and restorative, it can also be alittle intimidating at first. Barone remembers herfirst dinner with 20 women she didn’t know; shemade a pledge to talk to those around her, andshe left the evening feeling reenergized. “It’s soeasy to get absorbed into your family situationand lose track of who you are,” Barone says.“The social outings give me time away from thechaos when I can just be Laurie among friendswho totally understand.”
To find your tribe that helps you de-stress, beyourself and have fun, and look for a local onlinecommunity that plugs itself as a social group.Meetups and Facebook groupsare good places to search,or start with a parent-to-parentsupport groupthrough an organizationor church, Kadievasuggests. (Check ourdirectory on page 26.)Then consistency is thekey, Kadieva says. All moms(and dads), but especiallythose with children with specialneeds, should engage in somethingsocial in nature at leastonce a week to help them relievestress. “Create a pattern foryourself,” she says, “and scheduleyour [social] time just as you dothe therapies and doctor appointmentsfor your kids.”
Since the AUsome Moms networkspans the entire Dallas-FortWorth area and most of the activitieshappen on a monthly basis,Barone connected with some ofthe other moms in Lewisville, andthey started a weekly BreakfastClub after dropping their kids offat school. They’re also going to doa movie night, and they’re talkingabout a girls’ weekend away too.
“Isolation just makes yourproblems get bigger,” Baronesays. “In my journey to find a social outlet, I’vegained not just a support system but a group ofcompassionate friends.”