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Happy Anniversary to the SPD Parent Connections Program

By Carrie Fannin
International Parent Connections Coordinator
SPD Foundation

The SPD Foundation's Parent Connections program celebrates its tenth anniversary this year! Ask a host why they volunteer to hold monthly meetings for families in their communities and more often than not we hear "I don't want another family to struggle like we did looking for resources. We can take this journey together." The resolve of these parents has been inspiring. The SPD Foundation has watched this program grow from 12 parents who initially volunteered to run parent groups to more than 90 hosts today in 7 countries. Not sure where you might fit in? We'll give you some information on support meetings and hosting so you can decide for yourself.

Why should you join or attend a parent support group?


Surround yourself with support

Some years ago I was sitting listening to a well-known speaker in our area who was talking about how families with special needs children could enhance their family resiliency and I have kept this quote nearby ever since. He said "The single greatest contributor to family resilience is the willingness to surround yourself with support".

Parents who are raising a child with SPD may have isolated themselves from their friends and even family as their child's bewildering behavior created tensions. Walking into a support group meeting to gather with a group of strangers can be pretty intimidating so let's take out some of the mystery.

Wonder what you might encounter as you walk into a meeting [gulp] for the first time? I posed that very question to my own group in Washington State a few years ago and this one answer seemed to sum it up pretty well:

"We meet each month in a local library meeting room. The first 20-30 minutes, we usually do introductions where people give a brief overview of who they are and what challenges they're dealing with at the moment. Discussion usually evolves into whatever topics people are concerned with that particular month."

Here are some of the GREAT things about our meetings:

  • We have a wide range of children's ages covered. This is nice because there is always someone (or several someones) experiencing something for the first time and also several parents who have older children that have "been there/done that" who can offer encouragement and ideas.
  • It is a super-supportive, very positive environment. We are just here to offer support and encouragement in a friendly, caring way. At most meetings, we run the gamut of emotions -- from tears to laughter -- and it's all good.
  • It is a great two-hour parent sanity break. Our meetings are for adults only. What a luxury to have this one time a month that we can share with other parents that totally "get it" and also have some time just to get away from it all.
  • Also, for me personally, I have formed some great friendships while attending these meetings - other parents that I know will understand whatever the challenge of the moment is and my related emotions. I look forward to catching up with them from month to month (and in some cases, we get together between meetings -- with or without kids).

Most attendees aren't there looking for research to quote; more often than not, questions are much more basic:

  • My child refuses to use toothpaste? Is that normal?
  • My child is five and still not potty trained at night. What should I do?
  • I can't get him/her to wear a coat, regardless of the weather (or socks, or jeans, etc). Why?
  • Why does he/she chew on their shirt collars?
  • What's up with the 40-minute temper tantrums?
  • XX (Neighbors, friends, teachers, family members) say this is just bad behavior that I've allowed; and I don't know what to do.

This is what our Parent Connections groups are all about; finding a community meeting place and talking! It is hard to describe how you feel at the moment you realize that you are not alone; that your child's quirky behaviors aren't really all that unique; and that no one in the room is judging you - only providing support. It's pretty amazing.

I'm ready to form my own group: What's next?

Fantastic! We'd love to have you join us. Follow the link below and fill out our host application. Know this: successful meetings are not measured by the number of people that fill a room. If you connect with ONE family, congratulations! Time and time again, we've seen the amazing "butterfly effect" our meetings have in communities. Not convinced that it's worthwhile to connect with just one person?

Imagine a pool of water; calm and still. Nothing is going on there. You walk up and toss a pebble into the middle of the pool and guess what happens? Suddenly that motionless water begins to change. From the spot at which the stone strikes, a small circle marks where the water has moved in response to the action taken. As that circle moves outward, another circle forms, then another and another and another. Pretty soon, the once lifeless pool is filled with ever-enlarging circles of motion.

Hosting a Parent Connections group is a lot like a pebble in a pool of water; by agreeing to host parents who need support, you have tossed what may seem like an insignificant pebble into the pool of confusion these parents have encountered. Most of the time, you won't have any idea where those ripples will travel, but imagine for a moment:

  • You have found a great family to socialize with; and your child might have a new friend
  • One of the parents who come to your meetings starts their own group to support other parents
  • One parent's experience encourages them to write about their own journey
  • Another parent goes to their school and health care professionals armed with information that helps not only their child but countless others
  • All of the parents in your group decide to fundraise to contribute to research for SPD

The possibilities are endless. You may not ever really know the full extent of the influence you have had on the lives of others but we are sure of this: never underestimate the power of the individual - YOU can change the world.

The SPD Foundation maintains a who are already working to raise awareness about SPD in their communities. Don't see one in your neighborhood?

Come join us at one of our meetings. You'll be glad you did!

For those of you looking for an online resource in addition to the monthly support group meetings that are scheduled, we have several online resources for parents of children with SPD:

  1. Sensory Planet is a social network for parents and professionals whose lives have been affected by SPD. Join us at .
  2. Connect with other families on .

Save the date - Florida Symposium 2011



The S.O.S. (Sequential Oral Sensory approach to feeding conference



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