Most parents would admit that parenting is a challenge, with difficulties and unexpected learning opportunities around every corner. Many people feel that having someone to talk with, learn from and turn to in times of stress and uncertainty is essential. Parents whose children have special needs could use this kind of support even more. They need other parents who have been there and done that -- who can share the wisdom of their experience and practical tips for when times get tough. All too often, though, parents of special needs children find themselves feeling isolated.
Parent-to-parent programs connect parents who are new to raising a special needs child with those who have already traveled that road and can offer the benefit of their experience. As the name implies, these programs pair up individual parents. Experienced and trained parents are matched with those in need of support. Care is taken to match parents in similar situations who are coping with similar issues.
Parent to Parent of the United States (Parent to Parent USA or P2P USA) is an organization that supports and connects the statewide, regional and local programs throughout the country. P2P USA's mission is to make available the resources that can help parents of children, teens and adults with a variety of special needs. Its Web site, p2pusa.org, is an information hub where parents can not only find out about their state's Parent to Parent programs, but also have access to a variety of useful resources. In addition, the site can provide technical support for Parent to Parent organizations.
For more information about using the Parent to Parent USA Web site to get involved, read on.
If you are a parent of a special needs child or young adult, it's likely that you are in need of support in some way. You might need emotional support as you face daily challenges, or you might need informational support as you make decisions that affect your child's welfare. Parent to Parent USA's Web site, p2pusa.org, offers a list of Parent to Parent programs organized by state, in addition to contact details and other information about the individual programs. The programs listed are expected to adhere to the quality standards and practices that Parent to Parent USA promotes [sources: P2P USA: History].
Perhaps you have been a parent of a special needs child for a while now. You want to share your hard-earned wisdom and experience, but you don't know how to find others who could benefit from your knowledge. The Parent to Parent USA site can also help you find a program nearby that can facilitate a match between you and another parent who needs exactly the kind of knowledge and emotional support you have to offer. State Parent to Parent programs offer the training you need to become an effective support parent [source: P2P Wisconsin].
Once you've decided to pursue a Parent to Parent match, browse the Web site and contact a program in your area to find out more. You might be interested in some of the research behind P2P USA's quality standards or the training that parents receive from the programs. For more about the effectiveness of Parent to Parent programs, go on to the next page.
Benefits of p2pusa.org
The idea behind Parent to Parent USA -- that parents can help others who are facing similar challenges -- seems to be founded in common sense. Yet you may be wondering whether this individualized support is really effective. Perhaps there could be a more generalized approach that would perform the same function without the same level of one-on-one interaction? After all, the individual approach relies on parents who are qualified by their experience and training sessions, rather than on professionals who have years of formal education in this area.
A national study involving hundreds of parents confirmed the effectiveness of the Parent to Parent model. In particular, the study found that parents' sense of their own ability to cope with the challenges of raising a special needs child was greatly increased by having personal, parent-to-parent support. Eighty percent of parents in the study reported that contact with a support parent was a beneficial experience [source: P2P USA].
The one-on-one approach of Parent to Parent USA provides two different types of support: emotional and informational. The emotional support provided by a veteran parent who understands, on a very personal level, the struggles you face and the emotional stresses that are part of the territory can be vital to your success. Informational support may include practical tips about getting through each day, doctor recommendations or the names of local resources and programs for children with special needs. Educated professionals may be able to offer the informational assistance, but they might not be able to provide the same kind of emotional support as someone who has shared the experience.
For more information about Parent to Parent USA and its Web site, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Parent to Parent-USA. "The History of the Parent to Parent Movement." (Accessed 12/26/2009).http://www.p2pusa.org/Bot_History.html
- Parent to Parent-USA. "Home." (Accessed 12/26/2009).http://www.p2pusa.org
- Parent to Parent-USA. "Research." (Accessed 12/29/09).http://www.p2pusa.org/Bottom_Research.html
- Parent to Parent USA. "State Info." (Accessed 12/29/09).http://www.p2pusa.org/state/map_us_gif.htm
- Parent to Parent Wisconsin. "About Us." (Accessed 12/26/2009).http://www.p2pwi.org/aboutus.html
- Santelli, Betsy; Ann Turnbull; Janet Marquis; and Esther Lerner. "Parent-to-Parent Programs: A Resource for Parents and Professionals." Journal of Early Intervention, 1997. Vol. 21, No.1, 73-83. Via the Beach Center on Disability. (Accessed 12/26/2009). http://www.beachcenter.org/resource_library/beach_resource_detail_page.aspx?Type=research&intResourceID=1311