Starting Your Own Support Group
You've looked around and asked around but you still can't seem to find a local support group, either for ADHD or parenting children with ADHD. The next best thing is to start your own support group. Although this can sound daunting, it doesn't necessarily have to be. The following steps can help make the process easier.
- Look for a few other people that may be interested in running a support group with you. There are numerous tasks involved, such as contacting potential speakers, advertising the group, making copies and maintaining mailing lists. Although it is possible for one person to handle all of these responsibilities, it may be more fun and less stressful if you have at least one partner.
- Decide who you want to attend the meetings. Do you want to limit your group to parents of children with ADHD? Adults with ADHD? Family members? Or do you want your group to be open to anyone dealing with ADHD?
- Find a place to hold your group meetings. There are different options. In the beginning, when your group is small, you may be able to meet at a local coffee shop or diner during off-peak hours. You can also contact local schools, churches and other non-profit organizations to see if they would be willing to let you use a room on a regular basis.
- Decide how often meetings will take place. Some groups meet on a weekly basis, while others are bi-weekly or monthly. How often your group meets will depend on your schedule and the schedules of anyone helping to set up and manage the group.
- Advertise your group. There are usually a number of free places to advertise your group. Many local papers have community calendars, as do some cable television stations. If you are starting a group for parents, you may be able talk to the local school district to find out if you can send flyers home with the students. Start talking to people, word of mouth can spread quickly and once you begin talking about your group, you will find people that may be interested in attending.
- Organize the meetings. What do you want to happen in the meetings. You might have guest speakers provide a presentation followed by a group discussion, or you may introduce a theme to talk about each meeting. Create a calendar of what you want to discuss during the upcoming month. Research and have information available on the topic. Participants can share their experiences about the topic.
- Decide if you will charge a fee. Having to pay for a support group can scare people away, but on the other hand, a small fee can help to pay for refreshments, copies, or guest speakers. You may want to forego the fee, but ask for donations toward these items, have different people responsible for refreshments each meeting or request a fee for special events, such as a speaker.
- Make sure your meetings are held on a regular basis, at the same location. Provide each participant with a calendar of upcoming meetings to increase attendance. Gather email addresses and send out a reminder a few days before meetings.
Some additional tips:
Have a sign up sheet for each meeting. Request names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses to keep your mailing list up to date and to email important information (and requests for new members)
Keep each meeting focused around one topic. Sometimes support group meetings end up being free-for-all discussions. Everyone can end up leaving feeling as if they did not "learn" anything. Focus the discussion around one specific topic and when you see participants getting off track, bring the discussion back around to the topic at hand. Make sure you have hand-outs and other information on the topic being discussed.
Ask local doctors or other professionals to come in to speak with your group. This keeps the discussion focused, provides new information and adds variety to your meetings.
Plan for "free" time at the end of each meeting to let participants get to know one another, create friendships and speak freely to one another. Use this time to briefly speak to each person, make sure you have contact information and ask if he or she knows someone else that may like to join the group.
Work to develop a listing of local resources. Participants can help by providing information on organizations that have been of assistance.
Support groups are continually developing and evolving based on participants needs. Ask for feedback from members of the group. Ask for help in planning and running the group so you don't get burned out and can benefit from the information discussed rather than always worrying about the details of the meeting.