HMEA’s Autism Resource Central was conceived in 1996 by a group of parents to serve primarily as an information and referral service for children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Center services the eastern portion of DDS Central-West Region. This encompasses North Central, Worcester, and South Valley areas. All totaled there are 65 towns within the Center’s service area. However, families who live outside our service area may choose to utilize our Center, The Division of Autism requests that families choose and utilize the Center that best suits their family’s needs and not utilize multiple state funded Centers. Please see our Resource Map for all DDS funded Centers.
This program is funded by the Department of Developmental Services ( DDS ) and administered by HMEA Inc. (Horace Mann Educational Associates, Inc.) HMEA recognizes that family participation is critical to the success of it’s programs, an Advisory Board which includes parents, parent professionals, Self advocates and professionals serves as the voice of stakeholders to the Center.
Information and referral, education, family support and networking are vital services the Center provides. HMEA’s Autism Resource Central is designed to help parents, educators, service providers, and medical professionals provide effectively for those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Center does not recommend any single program or treatment but instead offers information on a great variety of issues giving parents and professionals what they need to make educated choices.
NEW TO THE WORLD OF AUTISM?
If you are looking for Autism Resources in Central Massachusetts we at HMEA’s Autism Resource Central are here to help as you begin the journey of parenting your child who has been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum.
It’s normal to feel frightened and overwhelmed by all that is before you and nothing in your life thus far has prepared you for this path. Don’t despair. At the Center you will find a safe haven of knowledgeable and understanding professionals and veteran parents who will support you and provide you with the tools you need to become confident and capable of dealing with the challenges that autism brings into your life.
In the beginning you struggle with feelings of sadness and grief, this is normal and will ebb and flow. Support Groups hosted at the Center give you a safe place to voice those feelings and hear how others have coped with similar feelings. Just knowing you are not alone is comforting.
The Center has a variety of ways you can connect with other parents and, over time develop a support circle. Support can be found at the various groups at the Center and through online closed groups the Center hosts. We’ve a Facebook closed group for parents only and a Yahoo discussion group where support can be found any time of day. We know that it’s not always possible to find child care so in addition to the online groups we offer a group for Parents and Tots where you can come with your children and network with other parents as the children play. Groups in the evenings include offerings for parents of Adults spectrum, a support group for parents of children and tweens, a group for parents of teens and a group for parents of girls on the spectrum. Siblings are also affected when a brother or sister are diagnosed with autism so the Center offers Sibshops for siblings aged 7-18.
There is SO much to learn as you begin this journey and twice a year, in the spring and the fall the Center offers Autism 101, a roadmap for parents new to life on the spectrum. This course is 6 weeks long with 2 hour sessions offered each week on various aspects of living with and supporting your child on the spectrum. It begins with an overview of Autism.
The Accessing Public Supports workshop will give you information on how to access public supports, like services from DDS , MassHealth, Insurance plans that will cover treatments for autism, personal care attendants and other services and supports that your family may qualify for since your child has a disability. In short order you will find yourself drowning in paperwork relating to your child, “Let’s Get Organized” will give you a system to keep everything about your child in one place. Your child will most likely qualify for special education services through your school district. Knowing the laws pertaining to special education will help you become an effective advocate for your child, and so a workshop on special education law is part of Autism 101. Your pediatrician may not be able to answer all your questions about autism, and you will need to become the case manager of your child’s medical care. Knowing what specialists you need to see and when is covered in Managing the Medical Aspects of Autism.
Additionally we offer courses taught by Board Certified Behavior Analysts from HMEA’s Children’s Division, on Applied Behavioral Analysis. ( ABA) is the most common methodology used to address the educational needs of children on the spectrum , The course will give you a basic understanding of ABA andhow to be an integral part of their child’s treatment team. Specific topics in ABA are addressed in workshops. Another course, Floortime for Parents ,is offered in collaboration with the Astra Foundation once or twice a year at a significantly discounted fee. Workshops are offered on other topics throughout the year and can be found in our Newsletter and Weekly Update. As your child grows up Teen groups and transition workshops will help you navigate the road to adulthood.
In addition to Support & Educational classes the Center offers a rich array of recreational activities in the community where you’ll enjoy typical family friendly activities with the support of others who are raising children on the spectrum. The activities are subsidized by the Center and a nominal per person fee is charged but may be waived if it is a financial burden.
In the Summer the Center offers two weeks of Family Fun Days at the beginning and end of summer and a 5 day residential camp option for children on the spectrum in collaboration with Camp Starfish in Rindge NH.
All of what the Center provides is presented cafeteria style, so that families may utilize some or all of the Center’s many supports as they need. What ever you need, when ever you need it, the center and our extended family of members are just a click or a phone call away.
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The Center coordinates a variety of activities, check out our calendar for more info.
Members of the Advisory Board are parents of children with autism spectrum disorders from across the Central portion of the Central/West Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Region, and serve as the voice of the families the Center serves. Professionals who work with individuals with ASD also serve on our advisory board as well as Self Advocates.
All activities require prior registration through this page. Registration closes when the event is fully subscribed, or two business days before the event. For many activities space is limited.