We at HMEA’s Autism Resource Central are here to help as you begin 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 more able children on the spectrum, a support group for parents whose children also are challenged by developmental delays and a group for parents of teens. Siblings are also affected when a brother or sister are diagnosed with autism so the Center offers Me Time for Lil Sibs for younger sibs and 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 wil 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. Applied Behavioral Analysis ( ABA) is the most common methodology used to address the educational needs of children on the spectrum, As part of the Autism 101 course, parents are provided with a 3 month subscription to UDiscovering’s online course Understanding Behavioral Interventions which will give them a basic understanding of ABA and allow them to be an integral part of their child’s treatment team.
Additionally we offer a course Floortime for Parents , 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 Camp 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.
You are not alone.