What We Gain from Playgroups as a Special Needs Family

During our pregnancy, we planned and expected to become a special needs family. What we didn’t know was that our son would be born exactly two weeks before the pandemic shut down in 2020. His first year and a half of life were in survival mode, for all of us. Between inpatient hospital stays, medical appointments, sleepless nights running a g-tube, and overall newborn life, we were exhausted. The thought of playgroups sounded out of reach.

The pandemic was isolating for everyone, but at the time, I didn’t realize how much I needed that pause in life. It gave us space and time to learn and grow into the special needs family we are today. But then, we slowly began branching out into playgroup settings.

It wasn’t until October of 2021 that we started leaving the house and branching out. Our son was not yet crawling or mobile, so at 18 months we joined a mom and baby yoga class at Born Yoga in Birmingham, Michigan. The other babies in class were four months to crawlers, however the owner was open and accepting of us. Our son was over the age requirement, but was on trend with the others developmentally in class, and we were welcomed.

It was in these playgroups that we made friends. We met some wonderful moms and babies who have become close friends. We started meeting outside of weekly yoga and even had daily meet-ups and a full calendar over the summer of 2022.

Benefits as a Mom

Before finding this group of friends, I thought my experience with newborns and challenges I faced as a special needs mom were different. However, through our daily park playdates, walks, and groups, I realized we are not that different.

My experiences with feeding through a g-tube compared to a bottle may have physically looked different, but the goal was the same. The sleepless nights or nap struggles conversations are the same. We have the same day in and day out battles that we can relate to, and having a group of friends who share these daily ups and downs has kept me grounded over the past year. 

Benefits for My Son

Then there are the benefits that my son has gained through these friendships and playgroups. He has a whole community of people who cheer him on just as loudly as we do. Even though the group of kids are over a year younger than my son, they are developmentally close. My son just started walking at the age of three, and is just starting to give hugs and love towards the others, who are patiently waiting. 

My son spends a few hours a week in different therapies. However, we find this playgroup is just as important. I find myself checking our playgroup calendar and scheduling therapy/appointments around our time with friends.

Between music, yoga, and park dates, my son thrives in these groups. The constant dancing, head bobbing, and squeals from him light up the whole room. The very first time he hummed and sang along with an OM at yoga, I cried. There is such power in connection with others and OM unites us all in the community. 

Since joining a playgroup my son has gone from 100% g-tube fed to having it removed in July of 2022 and eating everything in sight. Then, there are the physical changes–including sitting to crawling, then walking, and dancing. One of the biggest improvements has been from going to the cardiologist every three months for an echocardiogram, to going annually, and coming off all three heart medications he has been on since birth. I love to think of it as though his friends have cured his heart.

Our Community

If you are looking for a community or connection, some of our favorite playgroups include:

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