Group Guides Parents Raising Children With Autism

Mar. 26, 2010

The UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders, in collaboration with the Crystal Charity Ball Autism Project, is hosting a weekly support group for parents of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

“Parents often feel alone when they first learn their child has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder,” says Hillary Carrington, family care coordinator for the Crystal Charity Ball Autism Project. “Although most parents already have a fairly strong support system made up of family members and close friends, they still feel the need to meet other parents who are experiencing similar challenges.”

The Resource-Based Parent Support Group meets weekly to discuss a variety of topics.  They include  finding a balance between being both a parent and an advocate for a child without alienating others, keeping a marriage strong while raising a child with a disability, and finding time to take care of oneself without feeling guilty.

The parents and group facilitators also share valuable information about local resources for children with autism, including names of summer camps and respite providers.

“We are excited to offer this wonderful new resource to parents who have been touched by autism,” said Suzanne Bonifert, head of speech-language pathology at the Callier Center. “We are especially proud of the therapeutic childcare program we offer the children of the participants at no cost.”

While the parents are in their meeting, UT Dallas graduate students enrolled in the master of science program in communication disorders provide childcare for the children with autism and their  siblings. The students receive valuable hands-on training and practicum experience.

“Because of the different developmental levels, the children with autism often don’t have an opportunity to interact with their typically developing peers or siblings,” said Katie Weeks, UT Dallas graduate student. “So we create and implement activities that work with the different levels and provide opportunities for the children to connect and communicate with one another.”

Each week the students discuss the activities with the parents and provide suggestions for interactions at home.

The group allows parents to join and attend when their schedules permit. It meets every Tuesday during the UT Dallas academic calendar at the Callier Center’s Dallas location on Inwood Road from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For more information about the program, contact Hillary Carrington at (214) 456-3349 or hillary.carrington@childrens.com.

The Crystal Charity Ball Autism Project is a collaborative enterprise involving clinicians and researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center, Children’s Medical Center Dallas and UT Dallas.


Media Contact: Debra Brown, UT Dallas, (214) 905-3049, debra@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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Callier Dallas

The Resource-Based Parent Support Group meets every Tuesday during the UT Dallas academic calendar at the Callier Center’s Dallas location on Inwood Road from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. For more information about the program, contact Hillary Carrington at (214) 456-3349 or hillary.carrington@childrens.com.

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