Group offers support for parents of children with special needs

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m, parents of special-needs children will congregate for a meeting of Parents SPEAK, a support group described by founder Peggy Larson as “a chance to get out and meet other parents who are going through difficulties and struggles.”

“Oftentimes, we discuss resources, and what’s available out there,” said Larson. “And oftentimes, we just discuss the frustration we feel.”

Larson said that “SPEAK” is an acronym for “Special Parents Encouraging Amazing Kids.”

“That’s just what we do,” said Larson. “We speak to each other, help each other out with encouragement.”

Larson and her husband are originally from Washington state, where they raised three children, now adults, with special needs. Their oldest son had severe vision problems, another was epileptic and learning disabled, and one daughter had a cleft pallet. In Washington, the Larsons attended a support group for special-needs parents. Moving to Alaska after her children were grown, Larson said she saw a need for a group similar to the one that had helped her. She started Parents SPEAK a year ago.

At some meetings, the group brings in speakers to present information about locally available resources for helping their children.

“We’ve had a speaker from the school district concerning special education programs, we’ve had a speaker from Hope Community Services telling what services they offer in the community,” Larson said.

At other meetings, members simply discuss the experiences and emotions they share with others in similar situations.

“We learned many years ago that parents with special-needs kids speak a different language,” said Larson. “They feel isolated from other families and other people. They are starved for the opportunity to meet other people who understand them, who get it.”

Larson estimates that about 24 families from Kenai and Soldotna have been part of the group since it began.

“A (special needs parent’s) life revolves around their child,” Larson said. “Their everyday life is not the same. When their friends that they’ve had for years ask them ‘what did you do today?’ and the average family’s biggest concern is remodeling the kitchen, for example, while the special-needs parent’s biggest concern is when the next surgery is, or discipline or health issues for their child, when they talk about therapy that their child’s having, or behavior issues that their child is having because of a certain disability… the average family just doesn’t get it. They don’t live that way.”

Parents SPEAK meets monthly at the Kenai River Center. For more information about Parents SPEAK, contact Peggy Larson at


Reach Ben Boettger at

More in Life

Ward off Halloween’s mystical monsters with these garlic-infused cheesy shells and pepper sauce. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Tasty Halloween

Keep spooky creatures at bay with garlic-infused shells and pepper sauce.

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Let there be lights!

When I stopped in at one of our local stores, I didn’t cringe when I saw all the holiday decorations on display.

Cabbage, potatoes, salmon and an assortment of pantry staples make for a culinary challenge. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Take a culinary pop quiz

Get creative with what’s in your pantry

This undated John E. Thwaites photo, perhaps taken near Seward, shows the S.S. Dora grounded. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 3

Her long career had come to an end at last.

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Sometimes I wonder, who needs who

Dog whispers we are not. Suckers for unconditional love, you bet.

Meredith Harber (courtesy)
Minister’s Message: Don’t let termination dust bring you down

If I’m honest, this time of year is the hardest for me mentally and emotionally.

Pieces hang on display at the Kenai Art Center for the open call show on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘They felt like they could share with us now’

Art center open call offers space for new artists.

The Cosmic Hamlet Entertainment film crew prepares for a new scene to roll on the set of “Bolt from the Blue” at the Kilcher Homestead on Sept. 28. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
‘Bolt from the Blue’ film features Homer

“The Office” star Kate Flannery cast in feature film produced in Homer.

These old-fashioned doughnuts don’t skimp on the fat or sugar. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Memories of old-fashioned doughnuts

My recipe is for old-fashioned doughnuts, and since I make these maybe twice a year, I don’t skimp on the sugar and fat.

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: October is here again

The days are shorter. We are losing nearly six minutes a day. It’s getting colder.

This John E. Thwaites photo shows the S.S. Dora near Sand Point, Alaska. Thwaites sailed as mail clerk on the Dora between at least 1905 and 1912. (Alaska State Library photo collection)
Resilience of the Dora, part 2

The S.S. Dora touched lives on and became part of the history of the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska.

Steller Sea Lions can be seen in an enclosure at the Alaska SeaLife Center on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska SeaLife Center to Alaskans: We’re still here for you

You rallied and kept us alive. Today, we’re writing to say thank you.