My name is Kim Flowers and I am a parent of a 15 year old boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability, named Keith, as well as a 13 year old neurotypical girl, named Aubrey. When Keith was first diagnosed, I did not know about Parent to Parent; as first time parents, my husband and I were initially devastated. I believe parents go through a grieving process when they learn of their child's exceptionality, because the expectations they had for their family must often be radically changed. With my own mother deceased and my husband traveling much of the time for work, I was left to cope on my own and I became interested in starting a support group for parents. However, I quickly realized that parenting an exceptional child (in addition to other children and/or work) often translates into a lack of time and energy to head up something this important.
That is why I was elated to learn of Parent to Parent about six years ago! I still didn't realize all that the Family Support Network had to offer, though, until I started attending meetings regularly. Since becoming involved, our lives have been so enriched by the connections we have made from this group! For example, we've learned of local social/recreational opportunities for our son, who struggles to have peer relationships, and respite opportunities for us parents. We've learned about resources to aid us in Keith's challenging transition from adolescence to adulthood, financial planning for our soon to be adult child with special needs, and funding sources for skill training that we were previously unaware of. We've learned of advocacy training, to become involved in everything from his education plan at school to state legislation that impacts all of our children. We've also witnessed Parent to Parent fill a void identified by a community needs assessment as a hub for community resources, providing an up to date website that can direct parents to the location and availability of resources and service providers in our community. But, most of all, I've been heartened by the knowledge that no parent will have to go through the grieving process of coping with their child's diagnosis alone and blind to what resources are available to them.
Funds raised from the Dance Marathon directly keep Parent to Parent afloat in three counties! Thank you so much for your hard work in raising money to support families like mine!