|TUCSON, Ariz. — Parents of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have a new avenue to receive help and support in Pima County thanks to a new University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension program.
Stepping Stones is a free nine-session program that will focus on communication, problem-solving and self-care for parents. The program is being endorsed by the Autism Society of Southern Arizona, or ASSA, which is a resource for the entire autism community in education, advocacy, services and support. Arizona Complete Health, formerly Cenpatico, is providing funding.
"Parents and colleagues tell me there are very few free behavioral support services available to parents of children with developmental delays, and children with developmental delays are three times more likely to experience abuse than neuro-typical children," said Debbie Curley, director of Pima County Cooperative Extension's family engagement program. "We are grateful for the opportunity to enable parents of children on the autism spectrum with the specialized skills they need to manage their child’s behavior.”
Stepping Stones involves six group sessions and three individual telephone consultations to help parents better understand the causes of behavior problems and how to prevent them.
"This is a wonderful training opportunity," said Dr. Sydney Rice, a developmental pediatrician and ASSA board member. "We can all benefit from this type of support to help us be the parents our children need us to be."
Parents who are interested in behavior management support through Stepping Stones should contact the ASSA. The first Stepping Stones session started this month, and additional sessions are scheduled to start in January and March.
“At Cooperative Extension, we strive to fill needs in the community," said Curley, adding that they hope to expand Stepping Stones next year as more parents become aware of the free program.