Last night was my monthly trip to the “Dads Talk” group at the ARC of Baltimore. I’ve missed two months in a row – I had a bonspiel in February, and had that disastrous flat last month on my way there – but it feels very good to be getting back into things again.
One of the questions raised last night, though, was the sparse attendance at the guys’ group. The mom’s group often has double or triple the number of attendees – so much so that they’re dividing that group along child-age lines. And, as you can imagine, I had an answer.
I think the major problem is a lack of communication to parents boarding our particular boat as to where the “amenities” are.
This isn’t, per se, a new problem: I’ve touched on it before about how there’s just not a good, central location to find reliable information on resources available in our communities. But as another member pointed out last night, the real issue is how we’re boarded onto this “boat” we all find ourselves on. We realize that our children are having difficulties. We bring ourselves around to going to a doctor to have our children evaluated. And then the doctors give us the “bad news”, and leave us to fend for ourselves. There’s no “now what” kind of intervention.
And that’s what we really need – some kind of welcoming committee as it were, even if it’s in textual form. A roadmap to local groups for parents of children with diagnoses, organizations that can lend a hand with handling things like requesting respite or financial assistance, support groups, things like that.
The fact is, for instance, that I found out about the ARC’s dads’ group because my wife was going to meetings with other people who mentioned it to her. She only found out about the groups we belong to, by and large, because we’re both Internet-savvy and tend to Google the hell out of things. But… even with folks who have been in the community for a while, it’s a shock sometimes to hear what’s available to families who are cruising on the same boat as us. I mean.. I still run into folks, with children who have diagnoses that are years-old, who’ve never heard of LISS, or don’t realize that Pathfinders for Autism has free tickets to baseball games, or that ASBC does social outings every month, or that various houses of worship around our area do “Parents’ Day Out” on a regular basis. Even we still find “new” things now and again that we’d never heard of.
Half of me thinks it might be a good idea to start building a community clearinghouse online, kind of a yellow pages for Special Needs Parents or a tailored search engine. The other half of me knows that if I keep suggesting it, folks are going to want me to build it, and I don’t know that I have that kind of time…
But, in the meantime, all we can do is make sure that within our own communities of support, we share what knowledge we have, knowing it’s for the good of all of our children. That we advertise those resources we find useful, and give everyone a chance to partake.