Yellowhead Community Services (YCS) is offering a new support program for families with children who have exceptionalities and is encouraging anyone who may have questions about their child’s development to drop in and see what information is available to them.
“We’re trying to start a support group for families that have children with extra needs and particularly provide a lot of information for families whose children have been diagnosed, or could be diagnosed, with autism spectrum disorder,” said Jenna Wilson, supported child development consultant with YCS.
Susanne Butcher, manager of Early Childhood Services at YCS, added the organization is finding an increasing amount of children in the area who are going to school and having developmental delays or behaviour issues, though parents don’t seem to be reaching out for the supports available in the community.
In other instances, some children may be overwhelmed in social situations like playgroups because of factors like the loud noise, so parents might opt to stay home with their children attempting to protect them, and to protect themselves from the stigma.
Because of this YCS wants to offer a safe place for both the children and parents to socialize and be free from judgment.
“At the end of the day all children are wonderful; if a parent feels unable to take their child anywhere else we want them to have a group where they come and talk to Jenna and if their child rips all the toys off the shelf, we don’t care. If they throw the toys across the room, that’s okay. We’re okay with that,” said Butcher.
Wilson added at the same time, if there’s concern about any area of development for the children then parents can use the group as a resource to find out more information on what’s expected, what’s unexpected and find out about other services available to them.
Another aspect YCS wants to get across is the group will also help parents connect with other parents in similar family situations, so they can offer one another advice and support.
“Parents are often really good resources for each other and that’s something we want to celebrate and promote,” said Butcher.
“I think one of the ways we’ll do that in the group is provide coffee, refreshments and snacks and Jenna will be there to play with the children and make sure safety is there. If parents want to talk to each other, and if Jenna can answer any questions, she will.”
The group is still in its early stages, but if families are interested and it starts to take off, YCS would consider having a support group for parents to socialize one week and have a group just for the children that targets skills the following week and parents can step out if needed.
Butcher said it’s also important to note that it’s for children up to 19 years old and it’s free of charge.
“Because we’re a small community often getting groups off the ground is quite hard because of awareness. We can provide transportation support if there’s a family that has issues with transportation, all they have to do is phone YCS or message Jenna through Facebook,” said Butcher.
“What we’re really looking for is the relationship piece. We want families not to feel isolated. We want them to feel included and welcome, because when that happens people get stronger and healthier. They’ll be able to go out and socialize more.”
The other hope is families will learn more about their own strengths, weaknesses and challenges, which in turn will help them to advocate.
“For children that have a diagnosis, disability, or need a little extra something to be successful, this is a group where they can find that,” Butcher added.
“I think the sole purpose is to empower families and children to be successful and included in opportunities that are sometimes difficult to be included in.”
The new support group takes place on the second Monday of each month from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m. at the Dutch Lake Community Centre Resource Room.
As the program is in early stages, it is not currently offered in nearby YCS locations such as the District of Barriere. However, any families in the district who would like to attend are more than welcome, said Butcher. In addition, if families would like to see the program closer to home, she suggests contacting the local YCS office at 250-672-9773 as the program is needs-driven.
For more information find Jenna Wilson on Facebook or call YCS at 250-674-2600 ext. 258.