Parents of special needs children learn to help others in their position

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Parents of kids with special needs can easily feel like they are alone. That's why some parents are getting trained to be a support for those also raising a special needs child.

Parents of special needs children train to be "support parents" (WSAW Photo).

Children and Youth with Special Healthcare needs, as well as Parent to Parent, a statewide organization, sponsored the day-long training at the Marathon County Public Library Saturday. They match parents one-on-one to connect through a shared experience.

People training today will become "support parents" for other people, who are usually paired based on the similarity of their children’s conditions. The session gave them a chance to learn support techniques like active listening and asking helpful questions, and gave them a chance to share their own experiences of raising a child with a disability.

The group aims to give parents a living resource that they can text or call for advice, or just to share stories. The group's leader says raising a child with a disability can be isolating.

"You get connected with another person who has been through that experience and when those two people come together, there's empathy that happens because one parents says, 'I know what that was like for our family when we went through that,'" said Robin Mathea, the Director of Parent to Parent of Wisconsin.

Mathea says she's found that families can be more resilient after sharing their stories with others in a similar position.

“The new family can gain some confidence in going through this and knowing that they’re not alone going through the experience. They have somebody else that’s been through the experience they can talk to that’s been through it,” she said.

The training also helped parents walk through their own sequence of emotions as they learned to parent their special needs child to teach them how to be there for another family's process.