As an older mum, Tara felt blessed when she was finally was able to give birth, through the intervention of IVF, to triplet girls. It was quite an extraordinary roller coaster ride, but nothing prepared her for the extra twist of having a child with special needs and what raising a child with special needs would be like.
It was almost a relief after years of visiting doctors to finally get a diagnosis of mild to moderate cerebral palsy with developmental delays for my third child, ending the wondering. And then reality hit.
Getting a diagnosis is like waking up and finding yourself in a new, unfamiliar world with no clear roadmaps. And you, as the carer, also has to be there for the rest of the family. Very few people understand the magnitude of this journey. The exhaustion, the neverending feeling of not being able to do enough, the pain and envy of hearing about the wonderful joys of others, and living with the dichotomy of joy for two children achieving milestones with their friends, and the agony of the other child who does not and may never achieve those milestones. Taking joy in whatever success they can achieve.
Then it hits harder as they get older and the siblings are off with friends while your special needs child tries desperately to fit in, between their multiple therapy sessions. Left out of parties and playdates. I was blessed with a few angels and mother’s group who were truly there but how much can you burden your friends? Very few will experience the gut wrenching, indescribable pain when your child wails from the bottom of their soul, “why me?” and you know you are trying to do all you can but it’s not going to fix it.
Isolation took a terrible toll on me and my family. My husband soldiered on with a wife who had had to give up her career to support a special needs child, and who became overwhelmed by depression and rejection. My girls lost their happy, energetic mum who had become obsessed with supporting a struggling child. It becomes a spiralling journey of rejection, isolation and depression.
I tried looking for social groups my daughter and I could connect with. I looked for online communities for special needs mums – there are lots, and they are all over the country and the world – which doesn’t exactly help socially, and there were none for kids. I contacted countless government agencies, help groups, support groups but these things are complicated. It was over the Christmas holidays two years ago when my other two kids were off with friends I realised I had to do more than be just one mum trying to reach out to others.
Many children are isolated in their mainstream communities and their carers suffer the same isolation and depression. I formed M2M.org.au, creating an online (but local) community. I started to build the M2M North Shore platform. Now, I am hoping for a grant, seeking extra funding to upgrade the functionality of the site.
What is M2M North Shore?
M2M North Shore is forum for kids with special needs, their parents (carers) and providers to support each other. It is referral-based (teachers, doctors, counsellors, support personnel and other parent members) and allows:
- Parents to connect (in a separate but linked forum)
- Kids to engage online
- Ultimately, allows parents to network and organise parent funded and supervised activities.
By applying via the M2M.org.au site kids, parents and providers can be approved to join the relevant M2M North Shore Facebook Community. There are over 20,000 students in the north shore and approximately 10% (2,000) have special needs. Many children (and their parents/carers) suffer from social isolation and depression. M2M provides a safe environment to reach out and connect with others who are challenged by similar issues in your local area. It is community-based and not limited to a specific disability. Over 30 schools have expressed their support of the initiative.
Vote for Us: My Community Project
After a meeting with local member Alister Henskens I was directed to a NSW Government program called My Community Project. My Community Project funds projects in each NSW electorate to help improve the wellbeing of people and communities. Successful projects will be determined through a public vote and the projects that receive the most support will receive funding.
What does winning mean? Up to $260,000 is available for each electorate.
When can I vote? Voting started on 15 July and runs through to 15 August.
Where can I vote? Vote on the My Community Project website, here.
Where can I find out more? Visit M2M North Shore here.
Why should you vote for this project?
Social isolation is the #1 issue facing people with special needs. M2M North Shore helps special-needs parents and kids connect. M2M is sponsored by Turramurra Rotary group, and led and managed by parents, who will self-fund and supervise their children’s activities. M2M has been designed with a platform that is scalable and secure so it can be extended to other communities. It won’t cost you anything and you will be helping thousands of people in the community.