By Heather Cameron
Westwind Weekly News
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
In April 2023, Family and Community Support Services began a program on Zoom for parents of children with autism (infants to age 12) which runs on the last Monday of the month from 7-8:30 p.m.
Jackie Fiorino, Family Support worker with FCSS, says that the program came to pass because she provides support for families on a one-on-one basis and a lot these families were sharing with her how nice it would be to connect with other families of children with autism.
“There is a lot to be said about connecting with other families going through similar experiences. FCSS is happy to connect families,” Fiorino said. “Through connection, families feel that they are supported. They are able to share common experiences or concerns and provide encouragement and comfort to each other.”
The program, Fiorino says, is a drop-in Support Group, but participants do have to contact her ahead of time to share their email address, so that she can share the online link each month. In the program that she facilitates, Fiorino says, the parents share their challenges, successes, and often coping strategies. Fiorino says that the number of participants continues to grow each month which is an indication of continued interest.
In addition to the current support group, Fiorino says, many family support workers are trained through the Triple P Positive Parenting/Stepping Stones Program to work with families of children with autism on a one-on-one basis. FCSS, Fiorino says, has also run small play groups for like-minded families to get together for play sessions. Any family is always welcome at any of FCSS’s programs, Fiorino says.
“FCSS will often run groups of common concerns hoping to connect families with similar experiences to support each other,” Fiorino said. “For example, our counselling program will often run grief support groups, or our youth program will run supportive groups for adolescence experiencing similar situations. FCSS is often searching out needs and gaps in the community and trying to support where needed.”
For more information about this program or other programs, Fiorino invites people to visit http://www.fcss.ca.
“Families have expressed their gratitude over and over to FCSS for providing the avenue for parents to get together,” Fiorino said.