Wayland-based mom Sabrina Picariello saw a need for more community around parents of children with special needs. Now 200+ members strong, MAK is building connections around the state.
BY JOAN GOODCHILD
As new parents, most of us are in need of information, support, sometimes just another person to listen to our concerns. And for parents of children with special needs, those needs are particular profound, especially in the first few years as navigating the unique challenges of raising a child with a disability can add an additional layer of uncertainty to an already difficult time.
In 2016, as Wayland mom Sabrina Picariello first began tackling the realities around her then 2-year-old daughter's diagnosis and needs, she felt largely alone and frustrated when it came to finding a supportive community to join for conversation and information.
"It seemed like everything I was finding was specifically tied to a certain diagnosis," said Picariello. "I was so desperate to meet parents and put something together."
So that's exactly what Picariello did. She formed her own group. Called Moms of Amazing Kids, it is a community for families raising children with medical, developmental, and other special needs.
? MAK's mission is simple: Provide opportunities for moms of children with special needs to connect with one another for emotional support, resources, inspiration, and balance. But, as Picariello states, she wanted to take it one step further -- she wanted to help people make real-life connections.
"A lot of moms with special needs kids do suffer from isolation," said Picariello. "I wanted to offer a community where they could take time to have fun and support each other, and take care of ourselves, too."
Now 200 members strong, MAK is a free membership group that offers resources and information on everything from navigating the diagnosis process to places where parents can find products specific to children with special needs. In group outings, participants get together for dinners and take part in play dates with their children at area facilities.
"This is a place where parents can be comfortable bringing their kids with special needs because they know other parents will be there with kids who are teaching them empathy," said Picariello.
For Holliston mom Lucinda Hickey, MAK has been exactly what she needs as she parents her own daughter, Madison, who has special needs.
"Part of it is just getting out of the house with people who understand and won't judge," said Hickey. "Bringing Madison to a music class with other kids that are delayed, knowing she is going to have a meltdown and we're not going to get any judgement. People are OK with her enjoying herself in her own way."
Hickey said she has also benefited from workshops organized by MAK, including sessions on Individual Education Plan (IEP) binders and the essentials of setting up sa special needs trust fund. But she thinks the biggest benefit is the amazing support.
"Madison recently became self-injurious," she said. "Talking to people in this group about it has been so helpful. And I've had some moms in the groups who I have never even met reaching out and asking 'What does your family need? Do you me to watch her while you shower?' Knowing they were there, and I could run out and do an errand, was so helpful."
Moving forward, Picariello is working on developing more playgroups that include children of all abilities for a true inclusive experience.
"We want to spread the message that everyone can play together, and we're teaching kids to be compassionate and appreciate different kinds of people."
While MAK was first formed to serve parents in the Metrowest region, Picariello said it is expanding to include members around Massachusetts. Information about Moms of Amazing Kids can be found here.