They say experience is the best teacher. So who better to coach parents raising children on the autism spectrum than parents who have “been there” and can share their direct experience?
This is the premise behind Autism Delaware’s Parent-to-Parent training program. The five-week series calls upon parent-coaches with on-the-ground experience to share their knowledge and wisdom with other families.
During each two-hour session, participants will learn about strategies, supports, and resources available to them and their children. The goal is to empower parents with a deeper understanding of autism and create an environment that fosters success for their children.
Starting below is an overview of the program.
Week 1: Understanding ASD
Parents will gain an understanding of three core areas affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and how these areas impact a child’s ability to communicate, self-regulate, and learn. The session includes materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that explain the signs of ASD along with the uniqueness of each child’s symptoms and how ASD impacts their abilities.
Parents will also learn to gauge their children’s developmental milestones by comparing them with the milestones of a neurotypical child.
Week 2: Communication
Communication challenges individuals with ASD in ways as unique as their autism. This session includes a discussion of the various forms of communication (verbal and nonverbal) and how best to support a child as his or her ability to communicate develops.
Look for a future blog from parent-mentor Karen Mackie, who will address the most common communication challenges facing children with ASD. Mackie is an Autism Delaware family support provider in Kent County and a dedicated volunteer and contributor to The Sun as well as the parent of a child with ASD.
Week 3: Visual supports
Visual supports promote communication and independence among people with autism who tend to be visual learners. Families will learn how to use these tools at home and in the community, and will leave this session with a personalized communication plan to try at home.
An overview of visual supports by Kellene Copeland will appear as a future blog. A coach with the Delaware Network for Excellence in Autism (DNEA), Copeland is part of the statewide effort to provide training and technical assistance to the Delaware professionals who serve people on the autism spectrum.
Week 4: Visual supports in practice
Continuing to learn and experience the importance of visual supports, participants in week 4 will be taught how to use visual supports to teach difficult concepts to grasp, such as “wait” and “help,” as well as how to ask for a break. Parents will also learn about autism consultant Carol Gray’s strategy for using social stories to explain a given situation and how a child can benefit. Gray’s evidence-based practices are used worldwide with people on the spectrum of all ages. For more information, visit https://carolgraysocialstories.com.
Completing the sessions on visual supports will be a lesson on how to use a countdown timer. This visual support not only structures the passing of time but also promotes a successful transition.
In another future blog, Karen Mackie will describe how her family used visual supports to help her son with ASD to communicate more appropriately and enjoy his life more.
Week 5: Positive advocacy
Having a child with special needs often means parents need to learn a whole new language. This session will teach how to be an effective communicator and form a positive team of professionals around you and your child. The topic will cover special-education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an individualized education program (IEP) versus a 504 plan, and how they all benefit children with ASD.
Look for a future blog from Virginia Sticinski, who will explore the language of the pros. Sticinski is an instructor at Delaware Technical Community College in Stanton as well as a parent-mentor.
Parent to Parent training is offered twice a year at the Autism Delaware™ offices and within several school districts. The $25 registration fee covers materials and refreshments for all five sessions. Visit Autism Delaware’s events calendar for dates plus a link to register.
For more information
Contact Autism Delaware’s family services director, Annalisa Ekbladh:
• (302) 224-6020, ext. 218
Sun contributor Liz Carlisle is a professional writer-editor and the current executive assistant and PR liaison for Autism Delaware.
This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the autumn 2019 issue of the Autism Delaware™ quarterly newsletter, The Sun.