Parents and children turn to peers for support while kids with autism socialize
Families of children with autism will have new opportunities to interact with peers, gain new skills and share their experiences as the Centre for Autism Services Alberta launches Family Night in January.
Family Night will feature two separate support groups – one dedicated to children who have a sibling with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the other for parents of children with ASD. While the two support groups meet children with autism will have a socialization session at the Centre starting Thursday, Jan. 13.
“We realize that having a child with autism affects the entire family. We want to address the needs of the entire family,” says the Centre’s registered psychologist Jenny McAlister, who will oversee the new family support service. “Our goal is to provide a supportive place for everyone in the family.”
Children, aged 6 – 13, will share experiences with peers during the two-hour Sibling Support Group meetings. A Centre team, including a registered psychologist, will guide the meetings through activities and discussions. A variety of topics will be covered including coping and learning how to handle common situations that surface when you have a sibling with autism.
“Kids don’t like anything that makes them different from their friends and having a sibling with autism makes them different. How do they make sense of that in a way that’s healthy, that’s what we want to help them with,” explains McAlister.
While the Sibling Support Group runs, parents will meet in an informal session that will be assisted by a registered psychologist. The meetings will provide parents with the opportunity to find hope and offer strategies for present and future challenges.
Recognizing that childcare is often a barrier for parents to attend support groups, the Centre is running a socialization class while the support groups are in session. Open to all children with ASD, the Socialization Group also welcomes siblings less than six years of age. The Socialization Group will feature fun activities.
The support groups will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month at the Centre, 4752-99 St. Participants need to register by Jan. 7 to attend the sessions.
Several families have already registered for the new groups and are available to share their stories with the media.
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About Autism: Autism is a complex developmental brain disorder that impacts a person’s ability to communicate and socialize. Behavioral challenges are also common. One in 110 children will be affected by ASD. It affects four times as many males as females. Its cause and a cure continue to elude researchers.
About the Centre: The Centre for Autism Services Alberta is a non-profit registered charity that offers a wide range of services for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We have been helping children and families affected by ASD in the greater Edmonton area since 1997.
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