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Online Parent Groups: Support at Your Fingertips

For parents, information and empathy are as close as your computer.  Learn how online groups work, how to interact safely and find a group that meets your needs.

By Linda Broatch, M.A. , Scott Moore

Would you like to talk about parenting issues with other people who are raising children with learning disabilities (LD) or AD/HD? Do you need a support group but have little time in your schedule? Are you willing to invest a little time to learn some basics about finding an online (or “Internet-based”) community that provides that person-to-person contact and support? If so, then read on.

What are some reasons I might want to consider joining an online community?

Parenting a child with LD and/or AD/HD can sometimes be an overwhelming and isolating experience. Support groups are helpful but aren’t always easy to access, particularly if you live in a rural area or have a busy schedule that doesn't permit you to attend regularly. Increasingly, parents are going online and joining Internet-based communities that focus on parenting and educating children with LD and/or AD/HD.

If you’ve never used the Internet to look for an online community, the advantages it offers may not be obvious at first. Maybe you’ve got some worries about how safe online communities are. Or, you may wonder if your computer skills are up to the task.

In one sense, an online community is a lot like a “face-to-face” support group. It is a collection of people with common goals - for example, to support the learning and development of their children with LD or AD/HD. These groups of people also share some common values, which are often expressed in the approach they use to pursue their goals, for example, by investigating the most up-to-date, scientifically-based information on LD or AD/HD.

On the other hand, online communities are different from face-to-face meetings in that you can’t see the people you’re “talking” or “listening” to, and you’re writing back-and-forth rather than talking with them.

In essence, though, online communities are just a gathering of people who are reaching out through their computers to communicate with others who have similar needs and interests. Like face-to-face communities, each online community has its own rules, guidelines, and “character.” Some of the rules and guidelines are more formal - user agreements and privacy policies, for example - and you explicitly agree to abide by these when you join the community. But communities also develop some informal, unspoken guidelines that mainly concern how members treat one another, for example:

  • How newcomers are integrated into the group
  • How people handle differences of opinion
  • How they show respect for each other

What are some potential benefits of online communities?

  • Connecting with others who share common experiencescan be a huge relief from isolation. Sometimes, parenting a child with LD or AD/HD can make you feel as though no one in your family, neighborhood, or town really understands your situation. Searching for support online gives you the power to reach beyond your immediate borders, into other cities, states, and even countries to make connections with families whose child rearing challenges are similar to your own.
  • Online communities can connect you with experts who have graduated from the "school of hard knocks," parents who have learned tips and tricks for surviving a parent-teacher conference or for managing “homework wars” with a child with LD or AD/HD.
  • Online communities offer flexibility in the time, location, and pace that you participate. Many are available to you 24 hours a day, using any computer that has access to the World Wide Web or to an email program, so you can “drop in” when you have the time and opportunity. Depending on the format of the particular community, you very often have time to read at your own pace, think about how you want to respond, or even do a little research before you write a response.

Linda Broatch has worked for many years in nonprofit organizations that serve the health and education needs of children. She has an M.A. in education, with a focus in child development.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/6/2012:
"I'm new to the site and dealing with a child with ADHD, My son is now 14 years old, is grades go up and down. But since the divorces its been getting good at first. Then when the children visited with my ex-husband and they come back home, its hell getting him back on track again. Well on May 16, 2011 my ex-husband went to court and told a lie, that our son was getting bad grades because of me. Well this man did go to the school for any time in the classroom with the child I did all the parent involvement with both our children edcuation. So the judge believed him, after showing the judge all my child progress reports and report cards. But my ex-husband then said he make over 85,000 a year and he can provide better for the children and he can make him get good grades. Well like I said this man had our child since May 16, 2011. On that day our son end up in the hospital for a week, after that he went back to school, was sent home everday at 12 noon for a week in a half. Then! our son was suspended from school for the rest of the year, and had to repeat 7th grade again. Since then our son has been back in the hospital two more times, Then school started back up again, our son was suspended from school again for a week, then back to school and child-protective services visited my son in school that day. Well that night, my ex-husband harressed our and tried to force things down our son mouth, our son told him to leave him alone, well my ex-husband kept picking with him, so my son pulled a knife on his dad, then the dad had him sent to juvenial and then to live at Bridge for two weeks, then they let my son go back home with my ex-husband again. My son was suspended again from school. So my 15 year old daughter has her friends over, and our son says hello and then my daughter goes and tell my ex-husband her brother is bothering her, so my son tries to tell his side, My ex-husband doesn't want to hear what our son has to say. So my son tells my ex-h! usband he goiing to jump out the window. So then my ex-husband! put him back in the hospital, but not at Pine Rest Hospital. This time he took him to Forest View Hospital. My son has been there since Febraury 19, 2012 and has not been there to visit with him or to take our daughter to visit with her brother, well child-protective services came to the hospital on Febraury 24, 2012 to talk with my son, so then the dad comes to the hospital on Febraury 25, 2012, my son said they didn't say anything to each other, he didn't even hug his dad good bad. He didn't want his dad to touch him. My son told the doctor that he wants to stay at the hospital or go back to Bridge or Juevinal if he can't come back to me. I have attorney working on my case, but its been very stressful on me, because I left Grand Rapids, Michigan and move to Texas with my oldest son, because I was being blamed for everything about my son. I've been n Texas since August 26, 2011. "
03/9/2011:
"I am new to this site and would like to address some concerns I have with my 8 year old son who was evaluated at his attending school and recently diagnosed as having autisim spectrum disorder. He began recieving speech and language services during kindergarten. I addressed vulnerability concerns for my son because he is very gullable, very easily manipulaed will follow to fit in. He is a very well behaved and well mannered little boy. I am overly protective and have to admit I am very reluctant when it comes to him being away from me because of his vulnerabilities. I need to overcome this I am the mother of 4 2 grown and moved out and a daughter age 13. "
02/14/2011:
"I am definitely interested in finding an on-line support group, which i've never had or done before I have a 7yr old son with Autism/PDD and unfortunately his father my ex-husband is in denial so I never had any support from him. I have felt alone in this, and simply didnt know where to start, I have done research but feel there is stil so much more to know and learn."
11/4/2010:
"Hi, I would like to know if anyone knows if Public Schools by law has to offer REading support for those kids with ADHD/ODD that does not knows how to read yet. Stated in his IEP..What can I do? What can I do? please advice.."
07/19/2010:
"How can I join the online Parent Groups? I would really love talking to someone that has knowledge of what I experience on a daily basis. Even my husband tells me I'm exaggerating about how tough my job is with our little one. My oldest child tells me, my brother is really using your emotions to get what he wants. My son has been Professionally diagnosed with his disability. He's very, very intelligent and that's what make family and friends feel that I am going too far with my so called complaints. I need help! "
12/8/2009:
"Thank you for this opportunity. My 7 yr/o son is a LD 2nd grade student with some struggles. As a separed father I'll apreciate any advice in parenting and help him the better that I can. Thank you. Luis"
08/24/2009:
"My childs enrollment is being revoked due to a residency issue,honestly i think its a little more personal if you ask me,my child was attending a school outside our district for three years, now they are questioning her residency.The principal that has only been there for a year now has changed a lot of rules,and i think she has a grudge against us.What do i do?"
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