The wife and I belong to a number of local support groups – sometimes, it does feel overwhelming with their sheer number.
I belong to a “Guys Talk” group – unfortunately, I’ll be missing meetings for a while due to my other obligations. (My schedule changed abruptly and it conflicts with the support group schedule. As much as I like going… I need my extra-curricular activities too.)
The wife, likewise, goes to the meetings of the local chapter of the Autism Society, and is going to try to drop into the moms’ equivalent of the Guys Talk group sometime soon. She’s also in the special-needs mommies group for her Baltimore Mommies’ group.
However, last night was the kick off for the Baltimore Jewish Abilities Alliance, which is a brand new effort in the community here. I always hear, at Guys Talk, about how there’s all kinds of supports in various religious communities that the other dads have in their lives. This is also one of the rare places where I feel my own religious community falls down – we certainly have a lot of understanding for the issues, and a lot of resources available (including a fully special-needs Hebrew school), but I don’t feel like there’s a lot of in-place peer assistance or organized resources that we can use as a support. (For example – heaven knows my co-congregants are very understanding when the Monster melts down at shul, or when my family ends up spending all of services in the Quiet Room, which ends up with me shuttling back and forth between the bimah and that place when I’m reading Torah or playing gabbai on a given Shabbat.)
That’s also not to say that I think that the Jewish community here in Baltimore is bad at this whole thing, but rather that I think that there’s portions of the community that have been reluctant/slow to set up an organized response to autism and other disabilities. I know from what I’ve heard that much of the community is reluctant to reach out to the resources offered by the city and state, and I would imagine this carries over in other ways.
As I’m understanding from what the wife told me when she got home last night, there were some very good presentations about resources we weren’t aware of, such as the availability of ESY services through the JCC-run day camp, complete with a fully-refundable deposit option through the end of next month. This was coupled with the fact that they’re trying to set up pairing programs for parents, to let us basically mentor other parents who are just coming into the situation themselves. I think this last one’s very significant – I wish there had been more parents I could have talked to at the beginning…
I think this is going to be a very interesting thing to keep track of and involved in….