ARCHER—There is a need for a support group in O’Brien County, one that focuses on parents and caregivers of those with special needs, according to Angela Palmer of Sheldon.
She recognized that need and has created a group called It Takes A Village, which will meet for the first time at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, at Archer Reformed Church.
Palmer has not placed any restrictions on the kinds of special needs. She said if there has been a diagnosis of a special need — physical, mental, educational or emotional — then the parents or caregivers are welcome to attend.
She initially would like to limit the geography to O’Brien County, but would love to expand the group to other N’West Iowa counties in the future.
Palmer chose the Archer Reformed Church as the setting because it is the church she attends and it is in a more centralized location in O’Brien County.
For the first meeting, Palmer said it will be a meet-and-greet setting.
“It will help everyone get to know one another and help me get an idea as to what needs need to be met,” she said.
When people arrive at the meeting, they will be given a sheet to fill out and state what they would like to see from the group.
Palmer said it would not just a group of people who sit and talk every time. For example, she would like to bring in someone from the Iowa Department of Human Services to talk about waivers. Perhaps a therapist will be at a meeting to discuss certain concerns.
“After I gather information, I want to bring in professionals to help address those concerns,” Palmer said.
For the last two years, she has been in a charge of a local group of mothers with autistic children, so support groups are nothing new for her. Palmer came up with the idea in August while going through Iowa Family Leadership Training and said she has received marvelous feedback.
“We have limited resources in northwest Iowa, because we are so rural,” she said. “It is nice to find someone to share all the different things with. There is stress, emotional things, financial. It is hard and this is a chance to share that with somebody on the same level who understands.”
Creating the support group will not only meet needs of people in the community, but meets one of the needs of Palmer’s training — a community service project. She emphasized, though, that It Takes A Village is not her group.
“I’m just getting the ball rolling,” Palmer said. “I want this group to be a team, a village. One person can only do so much.”
The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” is the inspiration behind the name of the group. Palmer said it means an entire community of different people need to interact with children to help them grow. The parent or caregiver also grows.
“So if this is the case, special needs parents need even a bigger village,” she said. “Sometimes these special needs only add one plate to the table. Other times, it turns into a 10-course meal. It doesn’t matter. We need people who understand the big and little things. We don’t want people to feel sorry for us. We want awareness, understanding and the best future for our loved ones.”
Palmer is a mother of an autistic son, Levi. Diagnosed in 2011 at the age of 2, he is nonverbal and displays self-injurious behaviors. She said the only reason she would change her son is if it would make his life easier. Since she cannot, Palmer is going to do her part to make the community a better place for those with disabilities.
“So much of the disability movement started due to parents, siblings and other family members standing up and saying this needs to change,” she said. “Then, they got the ball rolling and ended up moving mountains. We have come so far in the disability world, but have a long way to go still.”