Group providing help for area parents

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2002

Who better to listen to parents of children with special needs than their peers?

Mothers and fathers who can talk the talk, walk the walk. Parents who have been there, done that. Parents who know first-hand the anger, frustration and joy of their special role in life.

That's what makes Parent To parent Connections such a valuable resource.

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Becky Tennis Hanson coordinates the six -months-old

service. According to Tennis Hanson,

the trained and experienced parents of children with special needs connect with parents of other special needs children ages birth to 21 in a confidential and safe environment: a telephone call to the Parent Warmline at (888) 584-2204.

"The goal is to provide a one-to-one relationship to provide emotional and informational support," Tennis Hanson said.

A parent-to-parent match is made after the initial telephone conversation requests help. It is based on a child's needs and age.

All the calls are confidential and connections are attempted within 48 hours of the initial phone call.

The different support and services available are extensive, according to Tennis-Hanson. The list begins with "someone to listen and understand" and "providing help in feeling less alone."

The contact parents offer ways to help

callers deal with stress, problem-solving skills, help in finding information on diagnosis, finding respite and child care, assistance in locating financial help and 24-7 crisis nursery referral among other services.

Karen Noterman, a rural Adams housewife and mother, is one of the contact parents. The mother of a 4 year old son with Downs Syndrome, Noterman has been helping other parents of special needs children since January.

Norma Klaehn, who holds "legend" status both as the mother of a special needs child and as a provider of a multitude of services for all parents, answers the phone when the Warmline is dialed.

She will match Noterman or any of the other 17 trained parents with a mother or father with questions.

"Sometimes parents can't find all the information they need in a book," said Klaehn. "They need somebody to listen to them and share with them."

"The calls may come during a crisis at that point in the families' lives or they could also be happy calls discussing an accomplishment. Whatever the reason, they want and need a connection," said Noterman.

According to Tennis Hanson, the idea for the Parent to Parent Connections service originated with special needs children's parents themselves.

The parent-volunteers range in age from 22-53. The vast majority are mothers.

Having "been there" gives them keen insight.

"Just knowing they can call helps," said one of the volunteers, Kim Gunderson. "Typically, a mother wants me just to listen to her tell me about the hell she is going through that day. It's as simple as that."

"It takes a parent to talk to another parent on days like that," Gunderson said. "We can help."

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at :mailto: