Support Group for Families with Special Needs Children

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MCALLEN – A support group in McAllen is available for families with a special needs child who are seeking guidance.

Carolyn Gibson loves to be a part of things. She loves to help and that’s not always easy. She was diagnosed with autism and ADHD when she was a child.

Donna Gibson adopted Carolyn when she was 5 years old.

“I went in and said to the adoption coordinator, whose name was Angie, ‘I want to adopt Carolyn.’ I’ll never forget the first words out of her mouth were, ‘Thank God!’” Gibson recalled. “And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘I’ve been looking for eight months and nobody wants Carolyn.’ Show me an underdog and I’ll show you somebody who is coming to live at my house.”

Carolyn is 31 now and Gibson is sharing her experience of raising a special needs child through a support group at the First United Methodist Church in McAllen.

“Because if you have an adult child, you can say, ‘Oh yes, this worked for me when my child was that age.’ And then there is life ahead as an adult who can be productive as an adult with a disability,” Gibson said.

The support group is for families of people with special needs, whether they are children or adults.

Madison Ramon is 14 years old. When she was 4, she was diagnosed with Doose syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy which is characterized by frequent seizures. Madison’s parents were also early members of the support group.

“There’s so many emotions that go through a parent with a child with a disability, especially at the initial diagnosis. Hopelessness, fear, anger, and we come together to kind of share that, to kind of go through that with them. Kind of supportive and give them information. Not tell them what to do but give them information that has helped us in the last 10 years. And it’s been a struggle,” Madison’s father, Robert Ramon, said.

The support group’s role is to let families of special needs children know they are not alone.

“You get to share your experiences, your knowledge, or lack of. We’ve had people come in who recently their children were diagnosed. They are starting out where we were 10 years ago. We were at a loss for words about how we are going to raise this child. Ten years later, not that we’re experts, but we feel like, ‘Okay, we’ve got this.’ And we’ve got the support of others whose special needs children are adults,” Madison’s mother, Dolly Ramon, said.

“The group is very dynamic, very non-judgmental. We just come together and say, ‘My gosh, I didn’t have a good day today. This is what was going on,’ or, ‘Hey we had a terrific time, you might want to take your child here,’” Gibson said.

The families participate in the support group and the children share in the benefits.

“I think that before the group we were hesitant to have our special needs kids participate in some of the many programs that we have going on. But we hesitate because of the conditions, whether it’s autism, epilepsy, whatever you have. So this had really allowed the kiddos to come in and feel supported,” Dolly Ramon said.

The support group meets the second Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in McAllen.

“You do not need to be a member. We welcome all people, whoever is needing some support when facing the challenges of raising special need children. We welcome (you) with open arms,” Leann Clemons, with the First United Methodist Church, said. 

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