Last week we were introduced to our new parent liaison, Sheila Carney. This week Sheila talks about her new role at Cornerstone Autism Center, and what she has planned to “Embrace those who love.”
A liaison is someone who facilitates communication between groups or people. In this position I’ve been asked to begin several projects to bridge the gap between staff and parents of Cornerstone Autism Center, as part of Cornerstone’s mission to “embrace those who love.” Parents of children with Autism often have very specific needs and difficulties related to their children. It’s good for these parents to come together to support one another and share ideas, and for us as a staff to offer tools that will help them provide the best possible care for their families.
I have begun a monthly parent newsletter to feature local events, highlight the progress being made by our Cornerstone kiddos, and share all kinds of Autism-related information and research. Newsletter topics are based primarily on parent survey answers to questions regarding sensory and fine motor activities, local professionals, grant opportunities, nutrition and technology, and more.
Another project in the works is a lending library with books on many aspects of Autism including Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, ABA and Behavior Therapy, Nutrition and Diet, and Activities for the Home. I’m also working on an information packet for parents, with short articles on all of these topics as an introduction. Many outside professionals have already granted us permission to reprint their materials to share with our Cornerstone families.
I have created two closed Facebook groups for current Cornerstone members, where they can ask each other questions, and get the advice of other parents in this group. There is also a new Facebook group open to the public for families looking to learn more about nutrition interventions for Autism and other special needs. And new boards have been created in Pinterest on a variety of topics, such as Fine Motor Activities, Free Apps, Active Play, and Healthy Snacks. We hope to add more pictures and blog posts to our Facebook page and website as the year progresses.
We are very excited to launch a workshop series with three different topic areas. “Breakfast and Behavior” meetings will focus on ABA topics for parents, to help parents bring the work of the center into their own homes. These meetings will be led by our training coordinator Bekah Missi and our lead therapists. Next, we will have Parent Support Group meetings at both of our centers. These will be a time for parents to get together and talk, share successes and frustrations, and get ideas to help with difficulties at home. Surveys will continue to gauge areas in which parents have the greatest need for information. Finally we hope to feature an outside speaker every month to one of our Cornerstone centers, on a range of topics. In the planning stages for these workshops include speakers on the topics of Occupational Therapy, Finances for Special Needs, Nutrition and Diet for Autism, State Waivers, Introduction to ABA Therapy, and Technology for Autism. We are bringing in both local and national speakers and have some exciting agendas in the works, so check Cornerstone’s Facebook page often for updates.
Parents at Cornerstone are welcome to come to me with any questions related to Autism. All questions are welcome, and I will do my best to answer them or help parents find related resources. Those questions related to a child’s behavior or insurance I will help route to the appropriate Cornerstone staff member who can get them the support they need. Questions that have come to me in the past two months, and which I have been able to provide guidance, include: “How can I find a dentist who works well with Special Needs children? Where can I find a support group for my son’s siblings? Where is a good place to purchase therapy equipment, like an exercise ball or scooter? What are some local support groups in my area? How do I tell my family that my son has Autism? Where can I learn more about current research on Autism? What are some conferences I can go to? I’ve heard of these special diets for Autism, how can I learn more about them? How do other parents handle long appointments at the doctor? How do I find childcare for my son?”
Current Cornerstone parents can email or call to set up a meeting at the Greenwood or West Lafayette center. I will spend time with you discussing areas where you need resources and any questions you have. After the meeting I’ll send you an email full of ideas and links to more information. I also look forward to chatting with parents at our upcoming meetings and events.
I welcome parents’ suggestions for our support group, newsletter, and other activities. I hope to be a resource to parents who are ‘new’ to Autism and those who have been at this for a while, and yet every day I learn new things as well. My Hayden has come a long way since the day he first met Debbie, David, and Ken; as have I. In fact, Autism has changed my life in many ways, but in the end it has made me a better mom and a better person. Thank you to Debbie and Ken, for allowing me to provide this service.
February 6, 2014, sheila