"Raising children is not easy," says Nicole Beaudry, "but when you raise a child who has challenges, it's very difficult and isolating."
Beaudry decided to do something about that isolation she felt as a parent. She banded together with her friend, Lian Goodall, to create a support group for people in Whitehorse whose children are what they call, "quirky" — in other words, children with disorders or disabilities that require special attention.
Five or six parents came out to their first meeting, this week.
"It wasn't a town hall," said Goodall, and she took that as a good sign, meaning there aren't that many parents in Whitehorse lacking support.
Those who did come wanted to share their particular experiences, said Goodall, or, "they were at the end of their rope and didn't know what else to do."
When Goodall was looking for help for her son — who she says has a "laundry list" of 10 or so challenges — the week before he was diagnosed, several organizations in Whitehorse told her they wouldn't be able to help.
"I was so overwhelmed," said Goodall. "I took a day off and spent the day in bed."
Goodall says her son can be "tricky" to care for. She says he requires occupational therapy every morning, and comes home every day for lunch because it's a challenge to be at school.
Beaudry and Goodall prefer the term "quirky" when describing their kids because, Goodall says, they "get so tired of the word 'disability.'"
They also don't want to dissuade anyone with a child who hasn't been diagnosed from seeking support.
'Maybe other people need the help'
Beaudry and Goodall met five years ago and bonded over sharing the challenges of raising their quirky children.
Every time they bumped into each other, they had something to share — an anecdote, or a tip about accessing services.
"It just astounded us that every time we ran into each other, we gave each other pieces of information that were like, 'wow! I didn't know that,'" said Goodall.
This summer, Goodall said, they realized they needed to reach out to other caregivers in similar situations.
"Maybe other people need the help we're getting from each other," she said.
Before she was a mother, Beaudry worked with special needs children. She saw a gap in Whitehorse — there are lots of great organizations, she said, but it's hard for parents to access general support.
"It's a drowning feeling, especially here in the North," said Goodall. "We have to be the people who are doing the advocating."
Beaudry says the most important thing a parent or caregiver who's raising a quirky child needs to know is that they have to take care of themselves, too. That's where the support group comes in.
Along with an information-sharing network, Beaudry said the group can offer support parents on their journey, and help them understand they're not alone.
The group will meet once a month. There's also a Facebook group where parents can reach out "at 11 o'clock at night, if they need to," said Goodall.