Parents of special-needs children share trials, laughter and support
Lindsay Bartholomew's daughter Emma has been struggling with health issues since the day she was born.
"She came out screaming and she never stopped," she said.
When Emma was 8 months old, she had a nasal-gastric feeding tube placed in her nose, throat and stomach. That was about the same time Bartholomew became separated from her husband.
Then when Emma was 12 months old, she had a more permanent feeding tube surgically placed.
In addition to physical health issues, Bartholomew also started to notice other problems with her daughter.
Emma, now 4, struggles with sensory integration as well as anxiety.
"You can feel her anxiety. It's like this dull hum of anxiety, constantly," Bartholomew said. "And you start to feel it, and you become anxious, and it's all the time."
Because of her daughter's unusual diagnosis, Bartholomew, now divorced, felt like there were no support groups out there where she could really fit in.
"There's just nothing for me," she said.
That's why Bountiful's Bartholomew, along with Jennifery Levy from Salt Lake City, founded the non-profit support group for parents with kids with disabilities called "Easy to Love."
Levy's son, Hudson, is just two days apart from Bartholomew's daughter. Hudson was diagnosed with autism two years ago.
Both Levy and Bartholomew realized there were few resources for the parents of special-needs children out there, so they decided to make their own. Now their all-inclusive support group holds two meetings a month, one for parents in Salt Lake City and one for parents in Davis. At the November meeting in Salt Lake City, where 10 moms were nestled into a room in The Sharing Place on 3300 South, the group exchanged advice and experiences about financial and medical resources, school and the upcoming holidays.
One mother, Anna Madry, asked about how to keep balance between all her children at family events. Her other children love rough-housing and playing with cousins at parties, but her 6-year-old son, Isaiah, who has ADHD as well as a liver condition, could get sick in overwhelming situations like that.
"Do we just tell our family that we're hiding at our house?â¦Do we scale back for our other kids if we scale back for him?" she asked.
Another mother, Becca Lucas, shared distress over her 4-year-old son Cole's recent behavior at school resulting in a warning of a 10-day suspension. Cole deals with ADHD and anxiety.
"Cole literally destroyed the classroom. He was running through the halls, the principal had detained him, told me she was gonna call the police on him," Lucas said. "It was horrible."
With every story shared and question asked, the moms listened, consoled and often laughed as unusual stories were shared and suggestions were offered.
Every parent went home that night with lists of activities and ideas, as well as an invitation to attend the group's holiday party next month.
As the group continues to growas the founders hope it willthey plan to organize their own office and begin to offer workshops.
Levy and Bartholomew said they're not the experts, but that's not really the point of the group.
"We are a group for the newbie," Levy said. "If you are really struggling out there with whatever is going on and you feel like you just need to connect with somebody, then we are that group."
And even if they don't have advice for parents on a specific disability, Bartholomew added, they can still offer fellowship.
"If they feel supported, I think that's all that matters," she said. "We're there if they need help."
Easy to Love Parent Support Group
Provides a place for parents and family members to meet monthly to share experiences and give strength and hope to families who are raising children with ASD, ADD/ADHD, SPD, anxiety and other mental health, developmental or behavioral struggles. "Through sharing in this experience of raising these 'hard to raise' kids, we grow stronger and more resilient," says their website.
When • The Davis group is always scheduled for the third Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where • Learning Solutions, 347 W. Gordon Ave. #2, Layton
Cost • Free, limited childcare available.
More info • http://utaheasytolove.blogspot.com/
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