AUNE Support Group for Families of Children with Autism Resumes in September

Friends and Family of Individuals with Autism and Asperger’s, a support group at Antioch University New England (AUNE), resumes meeting on Wednesday, September 14.

Catherine Fregosi discovered the group last year, not long after her five-year-old son, Holden, was diagnosed with autism. “The Antioch group has been fantastic,” she said. “It has been really important for me as a mom to remember that our family is not alone in dealing with our particular issues, and I certainly feel less isolated now than I did a year ago. It can be a challenge to find appropriate activities for kids with autism and related diagnoses, and hearing about things that have worked for other parents is very helpful.”

The group meets on the second Wednesday evening of each month, for ninety minutes, at AUNE’s Couple and Family Therapy Institute, The Center at Keene, 9 Emerald Street. It was founded by AUNE faculty members Shelley Viles and Amy Blanchard. Viles is the director of AUNE’s Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs and the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Blanchard is an assistant professor in the Marriage and Family Therapy program. The support group is a collaborative endeavor of faculty and students from throughout the Department of Applied Psychology.

The group is larger than a previous, peer-led support group and provides support services for children. “Another benefit is, because of the size of the support group, we often have sections based upon age, so parents or young children can meet separately from family of older teens and adults,” Viles said.

“Many parents who were in isolation now have the opportunity to talk with other parents who are in a similar situation. And it’s an opportunity for kids to socialize and have positive interactions with peers.”

Meeting monthly to talk and play
Parents meet to talk over issues like stress, safety and relationships. Meanwhile, their children, those on the autism spectrum and their siblings, join in a variety of activities.

For the AUNE students, it’s an opportunity to learn about autism spectrum disorders with an eye to specializing in that field in their practice. Students from the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program facilitate the parent group, while others, along with students from Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC), ASD and ABA, run several children’s groups.

Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) students teach expressive movement, focusing on body awareness and social skills. “Many of the children on the spectrum don’t have verbal language, so it’s useful to meet them on their level and to learn how to help them with awkward social skills,” said Christina Devereaux, core faculty member in the DMT program.

Find out more about the ASD/ABA program and how to sign up for Friends and Family of Individuals with Autism and Asperger’s by calling 603-283-2156.

Read an interview with Amy Blanchard here.