Raising a child with special needs is difficult for both the caregiver and the child, but Perkins works hard to offer coping mechanisms for all involved through Parent Connections. This particular rotation of the group used the campus-wide ARC initiative. ARC stands for Attachment, Regulation, and Competency and offers tools for those dealing with a child struggling. The ultimate goal of ARC is to teach a caregiver and a child to engage thoughtfully in the present moment. To that end, this Parent Connection group was born. “As difficult as this whole process has been for my family, I found being able to talk to another group of parents very validating,” a participating parent said.
Group leaders Bridget Matte, Kara Dembowski, Kara Nelson, Alisha Vargo-Wood, and Amy Melanson.
According to Clinical Coordinator, Bridget Matte the goal of the program is to help parents feel less alone. “It is helpful to spend time with other Perkins parents who understand some of our family’s challenges,” a member of the group said. Many of these parents have attended before so they have gotten to know each other along the way, noted Clinical Coordinator Amy Melanson.
The group focuses on the zones of regulation for both themselves and others, “All of the members have different and unique kids, this group offers them an opportunity to talk together and determine what works and what doesn’t,” Bridget said. “The group supports each other through our guided discussions, and we are in the background listening, and that’s what we want this group to be – an escape and a chance for parents to realize they are not alone.”
Among other things, parents and caregivers are taught to be calm in the eye of the storm, how to improve their affect management and options for handling a difficult child. “Everyone has a role in their family, but when a child is struggling, we teach parents how to disengage and reflect on the emotion, not the behavior,” Amy said. “This allows them to reflect on their own reactions as well as the child’s, and hopefully find a successful way forward.”
“It’s important for everyone to put on their detective hats and focus on non-verbal communication,” Bridget said. “It is all about attunement and kids are in tune with their parents and parent in tune with their kids, but at some point, the parent needs to step in and determine how to navigate the way out of the problem,” Amy added.
This group, which ran for four weeks, had 15 participants. “They are consistent, talkative, and encouraging. We appreciate that,” Bridget said.