Support Group Connects Families of Kids with Disabilities
March 15, 2020
To provide a space for families who have children with disabilities to connect and learn from each other, Wendie Wilson has founded a group called Special Kids of Harvest which meets monthly in the Harvest neighborhood. The group gathers around a dinner table in the evenings and provides food, games and childcare for these families.
“This group is for families that have kids with special needs of all degrees,” founder Wendie Wilson said. “The purpose of the meetings is to develop a community for these families so they feel like they are not alone.”
Wilson founded the group three years ago and has since seen her goals become a reality.
“The intent was to do exactly what the event is currently doing: creating a community with the commonality of kids with special needs,” Wilson said. “The impact has been a recourse for parents’ insurance or medical waiver programs and helping each other with supplies and advice.”
Wilson has seen a fluctuation of attendants each month and would like to see more “consistent participation” from the families.
“Attendance varies anywhere from three families to 11,” Wilson said. “You don’t know from day to day if going to the group is going to be feasible. There are so many obstacles to overcome.”
A few measures have been taken to make the group more conducive to the needs of each family, including the recruiting volunteers to help with children.
“We currently have five volunteers,” Wilson said. “The volunteers play a huge role in providing respite care for the parents. They watch the siblings and the kids with special needs by playing games, playing outside, making sure they are safe so parents can socialize with one another.”
Volunteers are often teenagers or adults who live in the Harvest area.
“I have volunteered twice in the past and plan to continue this in the future,” junior Mariah Airey said. “Knowing I can make a difference encouraged me to volunteer for this event. It has a decent turn out for the parents and children who are involved, but they could always use more volunteers.”
One mother, Nikita Wiggins, who has attended with her son Lathan feels the meetings have been a “success.”
“I have enjoyed the sense of community and meeting families who have similar understanding,” Wiggins said. “The benefit to the gathering was having an opportunity to speak to other adults, and sharing our ideas to better serve our children, especially as I prepare to transition my son into adulthood.”
This event also welcomes families in neighboring communities and those willing to learn more about kids with disabilities.
“It was comforting to see other families with non-special needs children attend this event,” Wiggins said. “Educating any child in social skills is key.”
According to verywellfamily.com, parents whose children have disabilities are not alone. There are close to 6.6 million disabled kids in public schools in America, and they recommend these parents join support groups.
“New friendships were cultivated,” Wiggins said. “We had the ability to talk openly, relax and swap ideas on managing care, [and] my son enjoyed the feeling of being included without conditions.”