Special needs

Special-needs parenting: When the online world meets real life

When it comes to special-needs parenting, meeting other people online can make the difficult days easier.

1Anchel

Syona meets Michelle McClure of Abilities Online. Photo: Anchel Krishna

A few weeks ago I attended People in Motion, a tradeshow focused on products and services for people with disabilities. It was a nice afternoon, and we got to meet some families from Three To Be’s Parent Advocacy Link.

We also met someone who has made a difference in our lives in a very big way. When Syona was first diagnosed I knew I needed to connect with other parents who had children with special needs. I needed support from people in similar circumstances, desperately needed to know that I wasn’t alone and wanted to connect about resources, and find answers to all of my questions. I immediately turned to the Internet, as it was hard to find people “in real life” (IRL). I started using social media in a very different way.

I also came across Ability Online, a website that connects kids, teens and youth of all abilities—including their siblings and parents—in a secure, safe online environment. Depending on your age and situation, you are able to access forums and parts of the website that are appropriate to your needs. The forums are monitored for bullying and inappropriate content. It’s a solid resource that I turned to for support, advice and opinions in the early days. Ability Online also runs a funding program (Ability Gives) that allows families to apply for funding. Thanks to their generosity we were able to have a dining chair made that supports Syona and allows her to eat at the table with us, rather than being stuck in a high chair.

When I first requested to join the website I had to be vetted to become a member of the community (one of the ways they keep it secure). I ended up having a long conversation with Michelle McClure, their Executive Director.

So, when I saw her at the People in Motion exhibition I immediately went up and introduced Syona, Dilip and myself. We chatted for a while, and for me it was definitely an emotional conversation. During that initial “vetting” conversation with Michelle, she was able to assure me that things would be OK. And she was right—things are better than OK. There was something really special about meeting Michelle in person. Because of her help, we’re able to eat dinner together at a table… and I finally had an opportunity to thank her for that in person.

A few weeks after that event I wrote a blog post about the dad perspective on parenting a child with special needs. A little while after it was published, my friend Stuart (whom I featured in my post) shared a story about a man coming into the pub he owns and asking to speak with the owner. Stuart assumed there was some kind of issue, and was surprised when the man introduced himself as a fellow special needs dad. The man said he’d read my blog post and was in Toronto for some appointments with his daughter and wanted to come say hello. The conversation left Stuart feeling pretty great, but he had one regret: not getting the man’s contact info so they could keep in touch. (Eric, if you’re reading this, please feel free to contact Stuart through his pub!). Because of this blog, two other people were able to connect and feel a little less alone. It’s a pretty special feeling.

On Friday, we shared this meme on my work’s Facebook page. It got me thinking… I’m lucky enough that my “village” is made up of friends, family and some amazing folks I meet online.

How have your online and real lives intersected?

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.