You Are Not Alone: Support for Parents of Children with ASD

You Are Not Alone: Support for Parents of Children with ASD 460 306 bh360

Support Group with lady

You Are Not Alone: Support for Parents of Children with ASD

Olivia Dominguez, MS, AMFT

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.

State Agencies

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.

Useful resources:

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.

About the Author

Olivia Dominguez is an Associate Martial Family Therapist (AMFT). Her interest in paternal support began when she realized there was a need for emotional support for the parents of children affected by autism and similar disorders. This led her to co-spearhead the Parent Empowerment and Psychoeducational group for California Psychcare in Long Beach, where she also serves as Program Coordinator and provides ABA-based therapy.

Olivia’s other professional interests include nonviolent communication, identifying emotions and triggers, applying coping skills and identifying automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions. In her free time, she enjoys spending her time running, practicing yoga and connecting with nature.

Olivia Dominguez, MS, AMFT

Program Coordinator
California Psychcare

parent training
Parent Training – Individual

Our parent training is focused on enhancing skills and techniques that can improve communication and cooperative behavior in individuals with autism and similar disorders. Offered in an individual’s home or one of our behavioral health treatment centers, this training provides an opportunity for parents and caregivers to learn and practice effective methods at home.

parental training
Parent Training – Group

Our parent training groups focus on enhancing skills and techniques that can improve communication and cooperative behavior in individuals with autism and similar disorders. These trainings also provide valuable information, tips and techniques that can help parents better navigate the challenges that come with being a parent of a child with special needs.

For more articles, visit our Stay Informed page.

Red Flags for Autism

Roxana Rabadi, PsyD, LCP

There is no greater joy than watching your baby develop as a little person, hearing them laugh and babble, and seeing them explore their surroundings. Some babies take a little longer than others to achieve expected milestones, from crawling to feeding themselves, and that’s not necessarily a problem; children develop at their own pace. But there are specific behaviors that can be indicative of a developmental disability such as autism.

Read More
Help for Families with Kids with Autism as School Resumes

David Yim, MA and Junxiang (Mark) Hao, BA

Many parents of children with autism are struggling to manage their own work or other responsibilities while their child is attending school virtually. Various services are available, including state-funded services available through local regional centers. Communicating with the service coordinator is key to accessing services.

Read More
Social Skills Development for Kids with Autism During COVID-19

Melina Barragan, MS, BCBA and Lilian Hernandez, MS, BCBA

Socials skills are essential to establish and maintain healthy social relationships. Kids with autism sometimes struggle with their social skills. Dealing with social distancing during COVID-19 is making social skills development more challenging. Telehealth has evolved as a new platform to help kids advance their social skills development.

Read More