Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and in recognition of the hard work parents with children on the autism spectrum do to make sure their children’s needs are met, we’re highlighting our Positive Parenting Partnership’s Stepping Stones service.

As a core part of our mission to serve “any parent, any family”, the Stepping Stones workshop series serves parents of children from ages 18 months to 18 years old with autism spectrum disorder and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. Using the internationally recognized Triple P curriculum, Stepping Stones teaches parents how to teach new behaviors and positively deal with misbehavior, with a particular focus on understanding the function of problem behaviors and teaching each child skills that can be used to replace misbehavior. Recognizing that parenting skills must be integrated into the greater context of each parent’s life, the workshops also cover strategies related to inter-parental relationships, family support, and financial health.

“We use a curriculum that is specifically designed for parents of children with developmental or intellectual delays, including those with a child with autism or related diagnosis,” says Lara Dickerson, Family Educator Supervisor at P3.

Adequately serving families with special needs come with unique challenges. Particularly for children on the autism spectrum, it can be difficult to adjust to new environments and situations, meaning parents are often hesitant to leave their children in childcare during class time. That’s why Stepping Stones provides on-site Child Watch with staff who are specially trained to care for special needs children, allowing parents to fully focus on the workshop.

“We do our best to meet their needs and connect with them,” Lara says. “We assure the parents that our staff will come into the group and get them if needed, and that our staff is trained and this is not unusual for them.”

Recognizing that every family’s situation different, P3 also assigns a Family Champion to each family participating in Stepping Stones throughout the duration of the curriculum to ensure they are receiving the care and services they need.

While Lara encourages any family in the Tampa Bay area to explore P3’s full offering of courses, she says she understands it can be difficult to take that first step. Above all, she wants parents of children on the autism spectrum and with other special needs to know that they are never alone on their parenting journey.

“There are all types of supports available through Champions and within our community,” Lara says.  “We truly want the best for you and for your children.”