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New Resources for Parents of Autistic Children

By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- From humble beginnings, parents, staffers and volunteers with the Chattanooga Autism Center hope to grow into something big; a one stop location providing hope and answers for parents of autistic children.

Alyce Benson, Licensed Clinical Social Worker with the Team Centers of Chattanooga, says, "They can come in during the day, access our computers, and talk with our autism coordinator who can provide information and resources."

She says most people don't know about or understand autism until they spot the signs in a child. There's no easy definition, but some of the more common signs include speech problems, poor eye contact, repetitive behavior or unusual sounds and movements.

When parents get the diagnosis, they need help dealing with and understanding the repercussions.  Benson says, "We hear from them, they're scared, they say their world is falling apart, and they don't know how to pull it back together."

The stress has proven to be overwhelming for some, and one-on-one assistance can be hard to find. That's why the Autism Center has the potential to bring a brighter outlook through mentoring, support and education.

The Chattanooga Autism Center holds monthly meetings at the Team Centers, at 100 East Third Street across from Erlanger. The next meeting is December 14 from 6 until 8 pm. They're planning a day long conference on February 5, called Putting the Pieces Together, Across the Lifespan.

You can find out more by calling 423-622-0500.

Other resources:

  1. Siskin Outreach and Resource Center, the family support component of Siskin Children's Institute
    1. "Family Conversations on Disability" - a free support group for parents who have children with autism and/or other disabilities; Last Tuesday of every month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Siskin Children's Institute, 1101 Carter St., Chattanooga; To RSVP, contact the Institute's Family Support Coordinator Beth Oldham, 423.648.1757 or
    2. The Institute's Family Support Coordinator, Beth Oldham, is available at no cost to provide resources and information to families. Contact Beth, 423.648.1757 or
  2. Awesome Autism - a support group started by Siskin mother Jackie Benkert, whose 5-year-old daughter has autism; Fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Ronald McDonald House, near Erlanger Medical Center. Contact Jackie,
  3. Mothers Moving Mountains - a support for parents of children with autism; Second Friday, noon-2 p.m., Hamilton Family YMCA. For more information, contact Lisa Dupree, 847-3730.
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