Nobody knows how I feel. No one else knows what I’m going through. These thoughts of isolation and loneliness often plague parents of children with disabilities. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there are over 59,000 children in Washington that are reported to have physical, sensory, cognitive, or self-care limitations. So what are the first steps for these families? How do they navigate the services available to them? Where can they turn for support?
In Thurston County, South Sound Parent to Parent (SSP2P) provides assistance, connection, and empowerment for these families. Their mission is that “All families caring for someone with special needs will receive the support and resources they need to feel empowered, encouraged and supported.”
Since 1987, South Sound Parent to Parent has sought to end the isolated feelings that can come with a diagnosis of disability. Founded by moms who personally felt this way, the organization now has over 30 employees, several support programs, and is now the Early Intervention Regional Service Provider for Thurston, South Mason, and Grays Harbor counties.
One of these supports is their Trained Helping Parent program. Using a state approved curriculum, these trained helping parents serve as mentors to parents of children with disabilities. This can be as simple as an email correspondence or something that develops into a lifelong friendship. The important thing is that these parents get to connect with someone who understands them and can support them right where they are at.
SSP2P also hosts a variety of recreational events. Trips to the pumpkin patch, the Hands on Children’s Museum, Skateland, and trail walks are just a few examples of what they provide. The goal? Give families an opportunity to get out and connect in a way that is comfortable for them and where they don’t feel judged. Since disabilities aren’t always obvious, families can feel awkward when their child starts acting out. These events give them an opportunity to be social in a safe environment.
While there is a growing cache of equipment to assist children with disabilities, this equipment can be costly. That is why SSP2P has an amazing lending program. Equipment is donated or purchased using funds from their annual Champions of Courage fundraiser. If they discover that they don’t need the equipment or if they have an excess, they have overseas partners that they are able to support with that equipment.
Another resource offered by South Sound Parent to Parent is their educational workshops and support groups. Up with Downs, run by their board president, is a group that specifically provides resources and activities for families of children with Down syndrome. Mom to Mom is their support group for mothers of children with disabilities. And they offer Sib Shops for the siblings of children with disabilities. All of these point back to their passion to make sure that no one in these families feels alone.
SSP2P also has a strong relationship with the foster communities in Thurston, Mason, and Grays Harbor counties. They have families who, upon receiving a new foster child, get them connected with SSP2P right away. Once this connection has been established, SSP2P will follow the child in the event that they move to another family or even to another of the counties that they serve.
They are also able to establish connections and support for the biological family.
Work Until They are no Longer Needed
One of the goals of SSP2P is to work themselves out of a job. They want to empower parents to advocate for their child. And they provide transition programs as the children get older. There are options for children with disabilities to go to college, live on their own, and hold down a job. Whether it is that independent path or one where the family will continue to care for their child into adulthood, SSP2P wants to make sure that all families feel equipped and able to do it with confidence.
Recently, South Sound Parent to Parent moved into a new, larger location at 2108 Caton Way SW in Olympia. Not only does this new building triple their physical space, it allows them to offer even more services. New to their program listings are parent and toddler programs and social skills groups for different age ranges. They are also working with first responders to develop programs in order to help children with disabilities feel safe and comfortable going to these professionals in the event that they need help.
Kim Smith, South Sound Parent to Parent Executive Director, wants all families to know about the resources they offer and the support they provide. Call, drop in, send an email, or refer a family in need. The most important thing is that no family feels alone or like they don’t know where to go for help. Families fight for everything. And South Sound Parent to Parent is here to help.
For more information, visit the South Sound Parent to Parent website.