Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reaching Out: Resources for Parents and Siblings of Children with Disabilities

This week I got a call asking if I had some local resources for a family with a sixth-grader who has Aspergers. His parents and siblings are having some challenges dealing with him. Here are both local and more universal resources. Please add your own; it’s far from complete.


The Sibling Support Project is a "national effort dedicated to the life-long concerns of brothers and sisters of people who have special health, developmental, or mental health concerns." Their web site has lots of resources, including books and a description of the Sibshops, which are workshops specifically for brothers and sisters of people with special needs.Their list of books and movies related to this issue is comprehensive; the two books that I bought for Jacob when he was younger were:

View from Our Shoes: Growing Up With a Brother or Sister with Special Needs, which has essays written by siblings themselves, and

And Don't Bring Jeremy, a novel that I really recommend, especially for kids into sports. I think I liked it more than Jacob!

Locally, the Arc of Clark County Parent-to-Parent Support program has sponsored Sibshops in the past but I'm not certain they still do. This program's web site has a calendar of workshops, trainings and support groups.


Some communities have monthly Austism Aspergers Game Clubs, where people on the autism spectrum and their families gather for games, snacks and fun in a supportive, non-judgemental setting. These clubs are a great place to tap into information and resources from other parents. In Vancouver, there is a Game Club on the 4th Friday of each month from 6:30-8:30 the Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, and also a North Clark County Game Club. For contact information, check out the calendar of the Parent-to-Parent web site.

Social skills groups are groups designed for children, often on the autism spectrum, to practice social skills with other children with similar communication and behavior challenges. I don't feel comfortable listing any providers of these (well, unless they want to send me an Amazon gift card KIDDING!!!) but search around on the internet and if you are really stuck, contact me privately. A good way to find out about such groups is at autism support groups or game clubs.


Support groups are not for everyone, but they are a life saver for some. There are those for grand parents, parents of newly diagnosed children, moms nights out,and so on. There are several listed in the Arc of Clark County's Parent to Parent calendar.There are also support groups for fathers. One is Washington State Dads, whose mission is "to support male caregivers of children mental health, behavior, or emotional concerns in Washington state."


Sports and recreation programs can provide an energy outlet for kids, a chance for them to socialize, and a bit of respite for mom and dad (including time to spend with other siblings!!) The Clark-Vancouver Parks and Recreation department has a wonderful program for persons with disabilities, including both staffing and accommodations for inclusion and programs specifically designed for people with special needs.

Many parks departments have similar programs, usually larger ones. If your local town has limited service for people with disabilities, see about the next larger community. For example, residents of Clark County who do not live in Vancouver but live in other towns such as Washougal or Ridgefield are eligible for Clark-Vancouver recreation programs. The department's Programs for People with Disabilities page has all the information you would need (plus a great video!).

There are also programs specifically for people with disabilities, such as Challenger Division of Little League baseball and TOPSoccer, a program of US Youth Soccer. Honestly, we have had limited success with these so far but are trying Challenger again next week. Hopefully, Sayer will be more interested in hitting the ball with his bat than banging on light posts and annoying his fellow players. If nothing else, he's crazy about "Coach Dave."

Wow, I think I'll stop there! In a previous post, We are the Accidental Experts, I wrote about how parents of children with disabilities become experts in the world of special needs, by osmosis and experience. I still remember the help and support I got when Sayer was first diagnosed and do believe that what goes around comes around, so I hope this finds its way to the people who need it most.


Anonymous said...

It's strange, funny and sad how you have to navigate through systems and resources in order to find the best possible help for your child, much less any help at all. I'm sure the family that reached out will be quite thankful that you were able to start pointing them in the right direction!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Carol..yes, you were one of my 'supports' when we first moved to this area and I appreciate it!!! If I ever have a question, I look you up....


Carol said...

That' right, Katie. Hard to believe your were pregnant with Boy #3 at the time!!