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The Importance of Parent Support Groups

Parenting in today's fast paced world, with both parents often working full time and many parents raising children alone is challenging under any circumstances. When parents face raising a child with special needs, it can often push them to their limits emotionally and even financially.

In many communities across the country, parents are not being provided with adequate services to meet the needs of their blind and vision- impaired children. Service providers often know nothing more than the parent about teaching a blind child. This can be as devastating as the diagnosis. So much research has been done into the importance of the first three years of life yet in many communities early intervention is hampered by many factors. Some examples are: agencies fighting for funding dollars, not working co- operatively, agencies which profess to provide services that in fact do not exist, and ignorance to the real needs of blind children.

Parent support is very important as talking with other parents who are facing similar challenges reduces stress. Parents often feel inadequate when they are not sure they are knowledgeable enough to raise a blind child. Having reassurance about decisions and access to the resources already sought out by other families can be an asset. For parents coping with a new diagnosis knowing that they are not alone and that their child can grow up to be an independent person and live a full life can be a powerful tool in moving forward. Being able to help other parents through your own experiences both good and bad is very healing.

Prior to arriving at the final diagnosis children have often fought life and death battles such as cancer or premature birth. Many children have had extensive medical treatments and surgeries. Other parents watch their child's vision diminish slowly and this can be very difficult to deal with. Seeing your child suffer is a pain that cannot be adequately described with words. When parent to parent support is always available, there are no waiting lists and no politics involved. Other parents of special needs children can understand in ways that friends and family cannot. The opportunity for parents to be part of the blind community is empowering for families. Meeting successful blind adults gives parents their dreams back, they can truly believe that the future is bright for their child. As parents we have much to learn and meeting as a group gives us the opportunity to invite guest speakers. There is no more popular guest speaker than a blind adult with the patience to answer some of the odd questions we parents come up with.

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