Those who have a child with different abilities or special needs understand the healing nature of support. Spending time in the presence of others who can understand what they go through is comforting as well as enlightening, especially when others have more experience and can impart wisdom. As an experienced special needs trust attorney in New Jersey and mother of a special needs child of her own, Christine Matus, Esq. often seeks out others who can shine a light on the healing nature of support for others.
The Value of Support
Recently, she interviewed Stacey Murray, founding member and Theresa Muenzel, one of the administrators, of a 5,300-member strong Facebook group called the New Jersey Autism Warriors, as part of her series called Conversations From the Heart. This conversation will be premiered on the firm’s Facebook page on April 2, 2021.
Stacey, whose son Jaden was diagnosed with autism, started the group in 2012. When Jaden was diagnosed, Stacey knew nothing about autism, but it was through Facebook that she met other supportive parents. With these others, they started the group, which now supports over 5,000 members in New Jersey, adding new members each day. It is also the official support group for POAC (Parents of Autistic Children) Autism Services, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization serving New Jersey families. She was later joined by Theresa Muenzel, who acts as one of the group’s administrators and who Stacey laughingly calls “the brains of the operation” due to her wealth of knowledge.
The Accessibility of Online Groups
Finding a supportive community is what led to the formation of the group and the Facebook platform is what has enabled New Jersey Autism Warriors to reach so many people and form that community. They agreed that those who have had to maneuver the special needs arena for some time never had the same accessibility to the support of other parents. Before online access, they had to physically seek out groups which could often be difficult.
Their Local Presence Has Led to Physical Social Support
Because membership in the group is limited to New Jersey residents and devoted to local connection, the group has grown into a physical community as well as an online one. This enables families to get together and socialize and support one another.
Lasting friendships have been made, not only between parents but also the kids. They offer a myriad of trips and have developed a network of places to go that understand and often make accommodations for their children. Parents have come to rely on those friendships and community for information as well as social interactions that they can feel comfortable with.
They also offer membership to extended family members so they can also have access to this information. In many cases, special needs families struggle with extended family members understanding what they go through. Consequently, the group allows these family members access to the same information and insight, so they have a deeper understanding of life as a special needs parent and how others cope.