You Are Not Alone: Support for Parents of Children with ASD
When parents first learn their child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or another developmental disability, it can be scary or maybe even traumatic, especially for those who don’t know much about what it means.
When parents hear their child is “on the spectrum” they can exhibit a range of reactions and emotions. Sometimes there is denial… they don’t want to accept it or even talk about it. Some think it’s just a phase that will pass. Sometimes parents feel shame… they are embarrassed. Sometimes parents are angry… either at the world broadly or at themselves if they somehow feel responsible. Every parent reacts differently. All these reactions are normal and natural.
What tends to be consistent from case to case is that parents feel vulnerable and need help. Help understanding the health issues, including treatment options and resources available for their child, or help developing or improving their own coping skills. Even the strongest parents often realize they need some form of help, and certainly want to know they are not alone.
Fortunately, there are a number of resources available to parents, including counseling, support groups and parent training.
In the state of California, the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) is the agency through which the state provides support to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities including autism and related conditions. The California DDS operates Regional Centers across the state and connecting with the local regional center is likely the first step parents will want to take if they believe their child needs care or if their child has been diagnosed with ASD.
Each Regional Center can authorize a wide array of service for California residents including diagnosis and assessment of eligibility as well as planning, coordinating and monitoring services and support for those who qualify. Many services are provided at low or no cost.
In states other than California, similar services may be available through other state or local agencies.
Parent Training and Counseling
Some agencies that provide ABA-based treatment for ASD and similar conditions also offer parent support and counseling in the form of individual or group training. This type of training provides valuable information, tips and techniques that can help parents better navigate the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. The sessions enhance skills that can improve communication and cooperation between parents and kids with autism and provide an opportunity for parents to learn and practice effective methods they can use at home.
Individual training is typically conducted in-home, while group training is typically conducted at a treatment center or other location. While individual training can be valuable, bringing parents together in a group setting has advantages over individual training because the group setting helps to create a support system and can help parents connect with others facing similar challenges.
Parent Support Groups
Parent support groups can be a component of parent training. These groups are more informal than traditional parent training and provide a safe place where parents and other caregivers can open up and share their stories and feelings without fear of being judged or criticized.
These groups are effective because there is comfort in parents coming together with others who are in the same situation. We all want to be understood and feel connected. It’s healing. Parents who are willing to share and receive feedback get even more out of these sessions. Participation is particularly valuable at the time of diagnosis, when coping skills may be most challenged and when the need for support can be strongest.
Being the parent of a child with autism is a journey, but not one that you have to undertake alone.
State of California | Department of Developmental Services
California Regional Center Directory
Learn more about individual parent training or group parent training available through 360 Behavioral Health.
If you think you need care and aren’t sure where to begin, we invite you to schedule a complimentary 30-minute phone or in-person consultation.