As the African proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but that village can feel very small when you have a child with special needs.
There’s a resource, however, to help you expand that village, and connect you with the right resources.
Alysia Huck explains in this week’s Raising North Dakota.
Every child is special, and some children are especially unique.
Rita Gieser knew early on that that was the case with her oldest daughter Sophia.
Gieser explains, “We noticed right away that Sophia had problems, right from birth, and the system kept failing us, and not listening that there were problems with her.”
Not knowing where to turn, Rita and her husband got involved with early intervention and the North Dakota Parent to Parent group, and that is when they learned about Family Voices of North Dakota, which connected them to the resources that led to a diagnosis of autism for their daughter.
“They helped me find a voice to help get me answers for my daughter, to help push for what we needed, to get us into the services and programs that Sophia needed,” says Gieser.
Family Voices is in a unique position to help families like Rita’s because each staff member understands on a personal level — they all have a child with a disability or chronic health problems.
Vicki Peterson is one of those staff members.
Vicki Peterson, Family Voices of North Dakota Region Coordinator shares, “We’ve lived it, we’ve gone through the trials, we’ve learned how to try to navigate.”
After her son Aaron stopped talking and eating, she knew he needed help.
Family Voices helped her navigate the health system, and she was connected with the right people and resources.
Soon after, Vicki was offered a job with the organization, and for the past 17 years, she’s shared her knowledge with others through a living parent experience.
Gieser says, “If I’ve had a really terrible day and I have no idea, what to do anymore? What do I do? I call Vicki. I’m like ‘I don’t know what to do anymore, where do I turn, what do I do?”
“Sometimes that’s all it takes is to be a really good listener and know that they can call us, and they can call us just to say ‘You know what Vicki, I was having a bad day,'” says Peterson, “And I think that’s extremely important for parents.
So who might want to consider contacting Family Voices of North Dakota?
Peterson says if you have concerns about your child, they can help point you in the right direction.
Peterson explains, “We’re not supposed to compare but you know, ‘well my son was talking at this age and my other son is not and I’m concerned,’ those people should reach out to us because we can help them navigate services.”
She also says they can help if you’re child has been diagnosed with a rare disorder, they have behavioral issues, or maybe your child falls ill time after time again … Family Voices can hook you up with not only specialists you may not know about, but families to connect with.
And most importantly …
Gieser stresses, “Find that support system. That’s the one thing that Family Voices opened up to me, that I’m not alone in this community. That I’m not the only parent fighting this battle. Find your supports, find your voice and fight for your child.”
Parents, caregivers, professionals – they have all reached out to Family Voices of North Dakota when they don’t know where to turn.
This includes people in metropolitan or rural North Dakota … Family Voices will help you find the tools and people you need to help your child.
For more information on the organization and how they might help you, click here.