What an honor it is to work with ALL OF YOU!!! We are so very thrilled to continue to build our Autism Oklahoma family and we are so grateful for each member. And yes, we are a family! If you don’t know one of our program leaders or staff members, please find a way to get acquainted. You will be so glad you did as we have THE BEST people in the whole world to work with! We are here for each other and want to know how we can all help each other. We could all say that we have our hands completely full with our own families and yet each member is so willing to reach outside of their family to help others. Thank you so very much for volunteering to make a difference! We ARE and WILL continue to make a difference in our state!!!
The following link contains a Parent Support Group Guidebook. It is probably most helpful for new groups or new group leaders. If any of you more senior leaders have some ideas and are willing to share, let us know and we will continue to build this Parent Support Group Guidebook.
I’m starting this off, but there is space for EVERYONE to add TIPS to share! Please e-mail me with your Tips!
Tips from Melinda
Relationships!!! They are the key to a great parent support group or any grass root effort for that matter. Sometimes “relationships” are the very thing that our parents struggle most with! That makes your job as a parent support group leader (and relationship facilitator) REALLY hard! If you don’t have relationships with your group, a family fun event can be really awkward! Who wants to go to an event where they don’t know anyone?
I was recently asked to talk about the keys to success for parent support group leaders. As I processed this question, I realized that everything goes back to building relationships with the other parents. Here are my talking points from that conference. Maybe this will help someone or you can share your secret to success.
- You cannot grow genuine relationships in a negative group. Who wants to be around a “sour puss”? Keep it positive! Ask everyone to recall their child’s best accomplishment last year or last week. Set the tone by example and do not get trapped into negative conversations.
- Leaders must display a genuine Care for Others. Your group will know if you are not genuine and they will respond over time to your care.
- Leaders must set a tone of Acceptance for the choices of others. Set the tone of PARENT CHOICE! Accept and welcome all kinds of families, kids, therapies,
- Leaders should negotiate and find win/win opportunities with parents and other organizations. You cannot do everything, but if you find out what others in your group like to do, they are more likely to help. Find groups that need service hours, like colleges or high school honor organizations. If you meet at a church, meet with the leadership and be a good partner. Remember to compensate, thank, and acknowledge the people who help you–like child care workers, churches, program leaders, etc. Don’t be afraid to buy a $20 gift card or make a homemade card periodically to let them know you appreciate them.
- Raise other leaders! Invite your support group friends to participate in the statewide conference. Put your support group friends in your contact list on your phone and call them often to check on them! Your group cannot grow without getting others involved and you will likely burn out!! The more you communicate between the meetings, the faster the other parent members will become friends!
- Tell your group what you get out of leading the group! Keep track of this as you realize the benefits and share it!
- Ask your group what they want to do. You may have to listen “between the lines” as often this question is not answered directly. Remember, anything is possible! Your groups can do amazing things when you have unity!
- Plan a family fun night where everyone is accepted! Your agenda at the event is to make sure you meet and greet everyone! Focus on building relationships with your group members!
Tips from Trina
- Inspire the quiet persons to talk and limit the boisterous who want to talk all the time.
- Take notice of who is who. In order to facilitate the group, knowing who may have a victim mentality, who may need extra attention, who may pick on others and who may need one-on-one connection is key. A good support group facilitator will not treat everyone the same because each member’s needs are all differently met by the group.
- Stay on track. Facilitating a group requires keeping conversations, meeting times, locations and external influences on track. Shifting meeting times can create a threat to group harmony, so make sure to stick to regular meeting times and places.
- Be prepared for active involvement. Facilitating a support group means you must be ready to deal with real conversations, interruptions, questions and answers from various members of the group. Active involvement can be hectic and will require a major energy commitment from you. Please have love for what your doing and your hard work will be worth. And the group will appreciate your love.