Parenting a child with special needs is a responsibility that often needs a little extra encouragement. For fathers of children with special needs, this encouragement has not been easily accessible until recently, with the inception of the Twin Cities’ first fathers support group.
Twin Cities Dads serves fathers of special needs kids living in the Twin Cities: Minneapolis, St. Paul, and surrounding suburbs. Our focus on these fathers is unique. While there are other groups for mothers and parents in general, we have found that fathers tend to have different needs. We express ourselves differently, find value in discussing different topics, and share a respect and comradery not found elsewhere. This focus makes our group more effective in encouraging positive outcomes for the entire family.
Inspired by his own experience working with the father of a child with special needs, Don Nikkola, retired senior social worker for Hennepin County, had the idea to create a support group for fathers where they would feel comfortable sharing their experiences with and learning from a collective of their peers.
Recognizing the magnitude of the task, Don enlisted the help of Steve Roecklein, who shares Don’s interest in early childhood development as well as working with fathers, and has experience doing just that. Steve recognized this area as an unmet need and was eager to help expand services to fathers that are underserved.
We meet to share our stories, gather support, and learn from the experiences of others. In coming together, we’ve found healthy ways to cope with the challenges our families face. We’ve learned how to advocate for our children and to help them grow. We've discovered new ideas and resources. We’ve become better dads.
We meet one Monday a month at Wilder School in South Minneapolis from 5:30 to 7:30 in the evening. The first half hour is group time with fathers and children. Then, while fathers meet, the children spend time with certified Early Childhood Special Education (ECFE) teachers.
The meetings are free.