Rose has learned a lot since her son Noah was first diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but there is always new information to take in, especially since he will be entering high school this fall. For her, Family Night at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (RJCHC) is a chance to ask questions and connect with other parents in similar situations.
“When you’re with other parents going through the same thing, you know they understand where you’re at,” she says.
“The hope is that everyone is able to find someone they can connect with.”
Family Night is a monthly gathering at RJCHC that runs from September to May. It’s unique in Ontario, in that it’s the only program to partner with Autism Ontario that welcomes not just parents and their children with ASD, but siblings as well.
“We talked to parents and heard that they needed a support group,” says Melissa Groves, clinical coordinator for Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) Services and Supports. “Families told us that they wanted to connect with other families, but getting child care was a barrier to that.”
Once a month, RJCHC welcomes parents for a support group facilitated by LB Brown, a family support coordinator with Autism Ontario. During the session, children with autism play under the supervision of ABA clinicians, while their siblings take part in a group session.
“The parent support group is really important for these families,” says Brown. “They can say anything and no other parent is going to judge them, because they get it.”
Each family brings different experiences to the table, and they’re able to share information about strategies, supports, and services that have been helpful to them. Last Family Night, Rose learned that Noah will be able to stay in high school until he’s 21-years old.
“There are always takeaways,” she says. “I’ve been learning about special accommodation at theme parks, for example. These are things we may not find out in a clinical setting.”
While Rose talks with LB and fellow parents, Noah watches his favourite videos on YouTube and plays with other kids.
“The hope is that everyone is able to find someone they can connect with,” says Groves. “Parents can share stories, tips and resources, siblings can interact with kids in a similar situation and our clients can play in a safe environment with the support they need.”
Clients who are currently enrolled in programs at RJCHC as well as clients on the wait list can register for Family Night. For more information, please call Amy Phillips at 905-521-2100 ext. 74136.