By: Joan Goodreau
I am a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I look forward to Autism Month in April as a chance to check out new resources and services in the North Valley. The first place I go to is the Rowell Family Empowerment of Northern California (RFENC). Rowell has a history of helping parents since its beginning in 1995. It is a parent-founded and operated non-profit organization with free services to families of children with diverse abilities. As parents, we often feel confused, overwhelmed and alone. RFENC provides us with support, education and advocacy.
Sometimes I drop by to look through their library for books and audio/visual recordings or to just chat. When I walk through the door, I am greeted by friendly consultants who have children with disabilities and have traveled the same road I have. Trained in Special Education regulations, they listen to our problems and advise us on such questions as how to get respite child care or more information about our child’s disability.
The RFENC offices in Chico and Redding offer monthly workshops on topics that meet the needs of infants through high school students. Some parents cannot attend these meetings because they live too far away from Chico and Redding. When my son was little, I could not find child care or transportation, and many parents share this problem. Now, Rowell solved this challenge with webinars. We can watch from our own homes. RFENC encourages parents to gather whenever possible for these webinars so they can discuss what they learn and support each other in meeting their children’s and families’ needs.
One popular offering, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) workshop, shows how to prepare for your child’s annual progress meeting (IEP) and make sure your student gets the instruction and services needed for success. Another workshop, called, “Passport to the Future,” tells how you and your child can plan and prepare for what lies ahead after high school. The workshop on Positive Behavior Support gives strategies on how to improve behavior. The Redding office also offers a program called S.L.A.T.E (Successful Living with Autism through Training and Education) for the families and children on the broad autism spectrum.
Rowell offers support groups for parents of children with: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Downs Syndrome and Infant Diabetes. The Redding office also offers a Deaf and Hard of Hearing support group and Grandparents Raising their Grandchildren support group. Dedicated to multiculturalism, Rowell offers groups in Spanish, as well as English. RFENC is always open to parents who want to start and run a support group. They offer stipends to lead parents and financial assistance for supplies.
The program manager at the Chico office, Theresa Rivera, wants to add more support groups. She says “More grandparents are raising children with diverse abilities now, so I want to offer a support group for grandparents and other caregivers in the Chico area.”
When my family was young, little attention was paid to the brothers and sisters of children with diverse abilities however; RFEMC has designed a special program called Sibshops that includes Saturday activities such as crafts and bowling. Siblings support each other while having fun.
Rowell continues to grow new projects, so stop by and visit with Theresa at the Chico Office or Gina at the Redding Office. For more information, check their website www.EmpowerYourFamily.org, or call the Chico Office at: 530-899-8801 or the Redding Office at: 530-226-5129.