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Parent support groups on social media empower in many ways

Diagnosis of developmental disorders like autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome (ADHD) can be daunting and stressing out for parents. But unlike earlier days, there is better awareness about developmental disorders in the society and amongst parents as well. Parent support groups are playing a big role in this regard.

Parent support groups started gaining popularity over the past couple of years. These groups bring together parents who have children with similar developmental disorders. That way, they are able to share their views, get advice, discuss problems or sometimes even vent out their frustration. Undoubtedly, these groups are one of the biggest advantages of social media.

Seema Lal, Co-Founder, TogetherWeCan, a well known parents support group in Kerala, says that these groups can be a boon and a bane. It is an opportunity for parents to learn from each other and celebrate their little stories.

It is a boon when it can be a great source of encouragement for families to share their lives and to be heard without being judged. It can be a bane when there is a huge divide within various disability groups. There is a competition to showcase achievements to the point where families of children who have moderate to severe disabilities feel stressed. Parent support groups can function better than professional support and there is so much to learn and understand from each journey. My personal experience has been enriching from such groups. -Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan.

Parents are able to share information about new programmes, sessions and advices on how to empower their child. But it is also important that they look at their child's specific needs before blindly following anything.

Take autism for instance regarding which they are plenty of myths on the Internet. Preetha, who has a son on the spectrum, says parents must understand that there is no cure for autism. Accepting your child's condition and working towards making them independent is what is needed.

"I feel parent support groups are great for parents whose children have newly been diagnosed of a developmental disorder like autism." Preetha's son is 10 years old and she has been an active member of many support groups. She says there are positives and negatives to this. 'The positives are that parents get to interact with other experienced parents whose children are already empowered. What they share has more relevance than theories put forward by therapists. It is inspirational to hear them as well. One of the biggest drawbacks is that certain groups believe in only one thing and try to push it on everyone else. Sometimes, the information can be misleading too.

Like everything else in life, there is a good and bad side to being a part of a support group. The important thing is to keep your child's specific needs in mind above everything else.

ALSO READ: Starting a parent support group, some insights. - Guest Column by Gopi Ramakrishnan, Co-founder, SCAN

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