Support Groups for Families With Special Needs

Fact-Checked and Medically Reviewed by:
Katie Lavender, RN Registered Nurse
Quick Answer

Support groups allow families with special needs to discuss their personal experiences and emotions in a judgment-free environment. The emotional support of a group can be tremendously uplifting for caregivers and children alike. Support groups are effective because they can bridge the gap between medical professionals and friends and family.

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What Are Special Needs Support Groups?

Support groups are a way for children with special needs and their parents or caregivers to receive emotional support. Medical professionals are not always trained to offer emotional support. Additionally, although family and friends usually provide this kind of support, they may not be familiar with caring for a child with special needs.

Members of a special needs support group relax on the deck of a lake.

As a result, support groups can be especially beneficial since they allow families with common experiences to share their emotions, coping strategies, and knowledge. This can be invaluable for parents who wish to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of various management and treatment strategies for their child’s disability.

There is a wide range of support groups, and the internet has made them more accessible than ever before. While traditional in-person support groups still meet in physical locations, many of today’s support groups gather on the internet, including Facebook groups and online forums.

7 Reasons Why Special Needs Support Groups Are Important

Caring for a child with special needs can be a full-time job. Support groups are a powerful and productive outlet for anyone facing the stress of being a caregiver.

Here are 7 reasons why support groups are beneficial:
  1. They can help you feel less alone and isolated.
  2. You can talk openly to people in similar situations without fear of judgment.
  3. Talking and listening to other families can help improve your own coping skills.
  4. They are known to reduce anxiety, depression, and caregiver fatigue.
  5. Sharing your experiences with other families allows you to feel seen and understood.
  6. Other families may have useful information on new treatments or clinical trials.
  7. Support group moderators are trained to give you practical feedback.

The emotional support provided by support groups can positively impact your mental health and overall outlook on life.

Types of Support Groups

Several types of support groups exist for children with special needs and their parents and caregivers. The best kind of support group for you and your child will depend on individual needs, geographic location, and personal preferences.

Here are the two most common types of support groups:
  • In-Person Support Groups: Families meet at physical locations weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Generally, these groups will be led by an individual who moderates the discussion and allows everyone to share their story and ask questions as the rest of the group listens.
  • Online Support Groups: The internet has made it much easier for parents and caregivers to find an interactive support group on social media websites such as Facebook. Online support groups are unique because they are not limited by geography, and group members can post at any time of day.

Support Groups for Parents and Children

Support groups offer a number of benefits to children with special needs and their parents. Below are some options to consider.

Parent-to-Parent Support Groups

Caring for a child with special needs can be challenging. Support groups for parents and caregivers allow families the opportunity to get emotional support and discuss their experiences.

Useful Tool

Parents Helping Parents has a Parent Stress Line you can call for support. This support line is staffed by sympathetic and nonjudgmental volunteer counselors. Call 24/7 in confidence at 1-800-632-8188.

While some support groups are focused on specific conditions, others are more general. Trying out various options may be needed to find what works best for your particular situation.

Here are some parent-to-parent support groups to consider.

  • Autism Speaks offers extensive resources to families affected by autism, including parent-to-parent support groups. Search for local support services here.
  • The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) is a central hub of resources for families with special needs. Explore your state’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) to locate parent-to-parent support groups near you.
  • Raising the Future provides free emotional support by phone to parents across the country. While it is not specific to families with special needs, helpline counselors are trained to provide a safe space for any parenting concern. Call their toll-free National Parent Helpline for support at 1-855-427-2736.

Support Groups for Children

There are many support group options for children with special needs, both in-person and online. The groups are often focused on discussions about living with a disability. Additionally, they provide motivation and inspiration for staying positive and encourage rehabilitative treatments.

You can talk with your child’s pediatrician or special education teachers to get specific group recommendations.


Parent-to-parent support groups are a great place to find an appropriate support group for your child.

Support Groups by Disability

Below are some support group options for cerebral palsy (CP) and Erb’s palsy, which are some of the more common disabilities that affect children. However, virtually every condition has support group options that offer in-person and online emotional support.

Local health care institutions and nonprofit organizations can help you find support groups for rare illnesses and birth injuries.

Useful Tool

Family Voices is a national organization that helps connect families of children with special needs to family organizations across the country. Find your local affiliate here.

Cerebral Palsy Support Groups

Cerebral palsy support groups give parents, caregivers, and children an outlet for emotional support. Members often exchange personal experiences and treatment stories.

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) is an example of a national organization that offers in-person cerebral palsy support groups. However, these types of groups can also be found online by searching Facebook.

Popular CP Facebook groups include “Cerebral Palsy Support Group,” which has almost 30,000 members, and “Mild Cerebral Palsy Parent Support Group,” which has nearly 11,000 members.

Erb’s Palsy Support Groups

Erb’s palsy support groups give members emotional support and provide them with hope for brachial plexus nerve injuries. The real-world information offered in these groups can help parents and children find additional resources and treatments for Erb’s palsy.

Several national organizations help parents and caregivers find Erb’s palsy support groups. The largest is the United Brachial Plexus Network (UBPN).

Finding a Support Group

Support groups are often associated with local hospitals, medical facilities, or nonprofit health organizations. National groups such as The Arc, Easter Seals, and Parent to Parent USA also offer affiliate programs and support groups around the country.

You can also look for local support groups through:
  • Churches
  • Community bulletin boards
  • Libraries
  • Local newspapers
  • Online communities, such as Nextdoor
  • Post offices
  • Your local hospital

Often, the best place to start is to talk to your physician and child’s pediatrician to get their recommendations.

Finding a support group may take a bit of research, and you may have to try out a few options to find a good fit for you and your child. However, many families of children with special needs find that support groups make all the difference in coping with day-to-day challenges.

Birth Injury Support Team
Reviewed by:Katie Lavender, RN

Registered Nurse

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Katie Lavender has over 8 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in postpartum mother/baby care. With hands-on experience in Labor and Delivery and a role as a Community Educator for newborn care, Katie is a staunch advocate for patient rights and education. As a Medical Reviewer, she is committed to ensuring accurate and trustworthy patient information.

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View Sources
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  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2023, March 16). How to choose the right support group. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 29, 2024, from
  3. Parents Helping Parents. (2023, March 23). Parents of adults with developmental disabilities: Sharing support & information. Retrieved June 29, 2024, from
  4. Newport Academy. (2022, November 22). Why parenting support groups are so important. Retrieved June 29, 2024, from,or%20other%20mental%20health%20issues
  5. Rudy, L. J. (2022, June 6). 11 things parents of disabled kids need to survive and thrive. Verywell Family. Retrieved June 29, 2024, from,when%20they%20need%20it%20most
  6. Smith, J. D. (2021, October 24). How to support a parent of a child with special needs. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 29, 2024, from
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, January 19). Cerebral palsy resources. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Retrieved June 29, 2024, from