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The Parenting Spectrum: The Challenges and Gifts of Raising a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Description: Hearing the words “your child has autism” for the first time can have a profound effect on parents, caregivers and other family members. Receiving the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is often met with not only guilt and disappointment but also social isolation and a lack of knowledge about how to deal with the unexpected level of care that is required. Parents’ hopes and dreams as well as expectations of themselves as parents may be radically altered; their ability to focus on their child’s needs in the midst of this emotional turmoil can be greatly compromised. By receiving the emotional support needed, many parents can and do rise to the challenge of providing for their child with special needs and find courage, contentment and connection in the shadow of autism.

In this highly personal narrative, the presenter, a mother of a child with autism and a licensed clinical social worker, describes her own journey of adjustment to the reality of her child’s autism. She offers hard-won, in-the-trenches insights of someone who’s been there and is still there today and reveals how a diagnosis of autism doesn’t have to shatter a family’s happiness or growth. She highlights important developmental issues as a child with autism progresses from infancy, to early childhood, and through the school years, especially the need to encourage and enhance social interactions and skills. She will also offer hope to parents as they move through the spectrum of parenting a child with ASD – from grief and confusion to acceptance and joy. The presenter will also discuss reframing autism from a “spiritual perspective” – a perspective that can support individuals and families with a sense of meaning and purpose, even during times of greatest challenge. Such a perspective also benefits children with ASD in that their gifts, talents and strengths are brought to light. Autism is like a puzzle as is parenting a child with ASD. This workshop will help both parents and professionals better understand and connect its pieces.

SherryTrainer: Sherry Mergner is AHEC Liaison and Clinical Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Social Work and lead social worker at UNC-CH’s Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Sherry is the proud mother of son with ASD and a son who is typically developing.


SLIDES — Handouts


UNC Chapel Hill – Family Focus and Disability Lecture Series Programs 

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