Parenting can be a lonely job, but parenting a child with special needs can be more so. “The one aspect that caught me off guard … was how lonely it makes us feel,” shares Chris Sachnik of The Colony, whose 8-year old daughter Sydney was diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADD. Fort Worth mom Rebecca Ruiz, mother of 8-year-old Joshua who has autism, agrees. But when Ruiz and Sachnik were unable to find camaraderie, these North Texas parents did something about it—with the help of sites like Meetup.com, Groups.yahoo.com, Ning.com and Facebook.
Ruiz’ group on Meetup.com, Tarrant County Families of Kids With Autism/Asperger’s (which now has 45 members) offers a forum and a calendar for scheduling area “meet ups” at museums, playgrounds or other kid-friendly sites. And while Meetup.com charges a fee ($72/six months), according to Ruiz, it was well worth it. “It’s great to know other families are going through the same situations as you are,” she says.
Although some sites, like Facebook, don’t charge fees, building a robust group takes time. But Sachnik, whose North Texas Parents of Special Needs Kids Friendship Group has just 11 members, is committed to bringing parents and kids with special needs together. He and Ruiz both feel socialization is as important for the children as it is for parents. “You have to understand that it’s going to be slow at first; you’re not going to get an immediate response,” says Ruiz. “But keep trying. It pays off in the end for both you and your child.”