Hearing Loss Support Groups
Support groups have a reputation for being those things held in dusty old buildings with creaky metal chairs and bad coffee, in which people stand around crying and hugging each other. You probably have this image in your head because you’ve seen “Fight Club.” But support groups are quite often so much more, even if they lack the hip stylings of Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. They are dynamic groups of people who come together to affect positive change – and yes, to offer each other encouragement and emotional support. You don’t need to face your child’s hearing loss diagnosis alone. Even if you think you have a handle on everything, emotionally speaking, disability support groups can provide assistance with legal advocacy and so much more.
What Can a Support/Advocacy Group Do for You?
Leaning on your family and friends in difficult times is important. But quite often, it can be frustrating because they may not fully understand what you, your partner, and your child are dealing with. A support group for parents of children with hearing loss is comprised of people who have all faced that diagnosis. They understand how overwhelming it can be. Other parents in a support group can help you to move past the initial emotional barrage so that you can focus on taking the next steps to help your child.
Support and advocacy groups are also a great networking tool. You’ll meet people who have likely been to several specialists for their children – from audiologists to speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Talk to them about which professionals they would recommend and which techniques and strategies helped their children. Use the knowledge of the group members to learn about your family’s rights and which legal services you are entitled to. Get the scoop on state or local programs to help Deaf or hard-of-hearing children.
Support groups can empower you to become an effective advocate for your child. Many or all of the other parents in the group have likely been through the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) processes. They can give you advice on how to navigate the system. If you feel that the school district is not offering adequate services, approaching the school district as a group rather than as an individual can also carry more weight.
Finding a Support Group
The quickest way to find anything these days is to Google it. Some support groups are online. Failing that, check with your child’s professional team about local resources. Ask his teachers if they know of any local groups. If your child is not yet in school, call the local school district and ask. Check with your place of worship for faith-based support groups, if that applies to you.
Here are a few resources to help you get started. Some of them offer information and/or search tools for local organizations.