Mission Statement: This blog was created to provide information on getting help for autism in general while focussing on locally available resources for families with newly diagnosed children in Belleville and Quinte area.

Please browse the blog at your leisure. You are welcome to comment on the posts. If you are a parent, an autism consultant, counselor, teacher with information on autism resources available in our area, please email your information to benziesangma@gmail.com. Your information will be added within 24 hours.

Local Autism Support Groups

Parents Engaging Autism Quinte (PEAQ), an autism parent support group, meets once a month on the first Tuesday of the month (no meetings in January, July and August) at Kerry's Place, 189 Victoria Avenue, Belleville at 6:30 to 8 p.m. If you have questions or suggestions for autism topics that are important to you so that we can invite appropriate autism professionals to speak at these meetings. Next PEAQ meeting is on June 5.

Autism parent support group meeting hosted by Mental Health Agency, Trenton and Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) meeting is on the Second Thursday of the month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. If you have require any further information please contact Marya Peters for more information at 613 392-2811 ext 3953 or email marya.p@trentonmfrc.ca

For info on Community Living Prince Edward County Parent Support group, contact Resource Consultants @ 613 476 6038

Central Hastings Autism Support Group meets in Madoc at the Recreation Centre. Contact Renee O’Hara, Family Resource & Support, 613-966-7413 or Tammy Kavanagh, Family Resource & Support, 613-332-3227

Transition planning for elementary school students with autism

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Each To Their Own But Here's How We Found Our Way

I can tell you from my own experience how overwhelmed my husband and I were back in the days after our child's diagnosis shortly before Grade 1. We began meeting with school officials regarding school supports for our son. We knew nothing about the resources within the school board, what we could seek to access for his school needs. But we persevered. We read online what other families are experiencing and the paths that they followed. We went to the meeting table asking questions having brought with us a list of all that we know about our child’s strengths and weaknesses. We were firm with our requests but we were also respectful of the staff’s time and showed our appreciation for the efforts that they are making. We found that the more specific questions we have to present at the table, the closer we got to addressing the ongoing situations with our child at school. Looking back, I think it was easier for the staff when parents come prepared with a list of things that they see might help their child at school. It becomes a written agenda for the team to discuss and explore options. The needs might not get resolved right away but a plan is set in motion – what, who, where, when and how – will the support will be provided for the student. We also found that setting up a deadline for the outcome of any item on the agenda, allows for space for both us as parents and the staff space to put resources into place or to work out other options. My husband took notes while I made my points, brought to the meeting in written format, and verbally followed up on them. We learned much later that we could have asked for a copy of the minutes for the meeting because the staff always takes notes. This, purely for the purpose of reminding ourselves what we discussed in the previous meeting and what we could follow up in the next. As we got more organized in later years, we kept the notes from the meetings and were able to follow up on issues and steps considered as needed. Our strategy was to make and build a sustained friendly and approachable relationship with the school staff. We realized that communication's possible when both sides are talking to one another respectfully valuing each other’s input and perspective. 

Two most productive things that came out of the early meetings were 1. the communication book from our child’s teacher telling us about some of the challenges of our child’s day. 2. the resource teacher made herself available to answer questions on a daily basis when she was available. This was an ideal team approach. We learned to prioritize the top, say, three immediate needs of our child and made sure they’re met and let go of the rest. In other words, we learned to pick our battles. 

From our family's experiences, some lessons learned that I’d like to share with other parents of special needs children are 

  • write your own notes and go over them with the staff at the end of the meeting 
  • provide the school techniques and strategies that work with your child at home
  • be involved in school events as much as possible so school staff becomes familiar with the kind of person you are
  • take someone, a family member, a friend, a support worker, to school meetings. The presence of another person can help when parents become too emotional or forget to cover some points that they really wanted to
  • pick your battles wisely. Make sure you prepare a small list of child’s immediate and important current needs and present it at the meeting. Set a deadline and allow space and reasonable time for school staff to put the plan in place. 
Most of all, let the angels of patience and calmness rule over you in the face of your child’s challenging school-related situation!

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In it for the long haul...

I created this blog with my sincere wish that those of you reading this will want to share your own stories, both good and bad, what worked for you and what didn't and together, we can make it easier for the next family beginning their own journey of discovery. By posting what you know, where you have recieved certain services, who you have talked to, whose expertise you trust, how you navigated the school education services and by responding to questions in the discussion thread, know that you have helped a family in need. So, parents, experts in the field, counsellors, teachers and everyone who has any information on resources available, please feel free to post on this blog.