Teacher starts support group for parents of disabled kids

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By Ian Neligh

More than a year ago, when teacher Lisa Arnold first moved to Colorado from Ohio, she felt she was alone.

Before moving, she regularly attended a support group with other parents who had children with Down syndrome. Arnold and her daughter, Grace, had been part of the group since Grace was a baby almost nine years ago.

But when the art teacher moved to Evergreen so she could teach art at Carlson and King-Murphy elementary schools, she found nothing to meet that need. So she decided to create a group of her own.

On March 17, Arnold held her first group meeting with parents of children with disabilities.

"After realizing that there wasn't going to be a group and that I wasn't finding one, I decided to just go ahead and create my own," Arnold said.

Her group is being sponsored by the Mile High Down Syndrome Association and will meet every third Tuesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Evergreen Lutheran Church.

Arnold said she wanted the group to include all age levels and any type of disability.

"I feel my role as a parent is also an educational one; to educate people we meet. … But these kids are kids, and they have abilities too," Arnold said. "They have gifts; so why not be a part of the community so it’s good for the community to be aware of who is in their midst?"

The group will provide child care for the parents attending and offer advice, speakers and, most importantly, support.

"Back in Ohio when (Grace) was born, we were given outdated information — you know, 'You're child will never do this; they will never do that.' And that was in 1999," Arnold said. "It's getting better, but to have a group that you can get together with … it's huge just to have your feelings validated."

Arnold said it's difficult when parents have a child with behavioral issues to know how to respond when schoolmates are insensitive.

"Just because you have a special ed unit (at a school) doesn't mean that the school has a language or a sensitivity program," Arnold said. "For that, this (group) is a good resource, so that at least families can vent to each other or support one another."

For information about the new support group, contact Arnold at laagea@gmail.com.

Contact Ian Neligh at couranteditor@evergreenco.com, and check www.clearcreekcourant.com for updates and breaking news.