Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

November 14, 2012

A network of support

Parents of children with disabilities find friends, receive advice

By Carrie Stambaugh - CNHI News Service

Nov. 14, 2012 — Parents of children with disabilities often feel alone in their struggles. They aren’t.

The Parents United Support and Help network is an expanding group of parents, family members, caregivers of children with disabilities and professionals that meet regularly to offer friendship, advice, training and other assistance.

Each of the FIVCO counties — Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Greenup and Lawrence — has its own PUSH group that meets monthly and has a full-time paid family liaison to connect it with a Pathways program, including IMPACT Kentucky. The support group is confidential. Parents in the group have children with a range of disabilities, from attention disorders to bipolar disorder, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome. Participation in the IMPACT program is not required to be a member of the support group.

Monthly sessions help parents deal with issues such as schools, courts and the community to get help and services for their children.

Parents also learn how to deal with stresses associated with the child-care demands.

“It’s important to have other parents that are going through what you are,” said Barb Worden, a family liaison with Pathways. She noted there can be disagreements within families about handling behaviors and challenges.

“All of us have been through it. We took what we learned to help our kids to help other parents,” said Brenda Baldridge, who is the Greenup County parent representative for PUSH. Baldridge said the monthly training sessions empower parents, who can then empower their children.

“It’s exceptional,” said Becky Burton, the Carter County parent representative. “It’s something every parent with a special-needs child should come to. We all work together to support each other.”

“When I found out about it, I thought, ‘Where have you been?’” said LeeAnn Kelley, the parent representative for Boyd County, who has a 20-year-old son in college. “We are there to help other parents and to support each other. Our children are just a blessing to each and every one of us.

“It’s an awesome program. We teamed up with them to get training, and they are sending some of us next week to get national training.”

The support groups are linked into the Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children Inc., which provides leadership and specialized training. Topics at a recent conference included special-education law, Internet safety and sexting and relaxation techniques.

In addition to support for families, PUSH hopes to raise awareness about children’s mental health across the broader community. A website is in the works and each county has its own Facebook page.

PUSH also sponsors outings and events for families and children.