Q&A with Susan Sklaroff-Van Hook, MA, CCTP
What is the purpose of this group?
The purpose of this group is to provide the opportunity for connection and growth to parents whose children with disabilities have transitioned into adulthood. There are many role models and a sense of familiarity for parents with typical children as they develop into adulthood, but for this group of parents it might be more challenging to imagine their lives now that their children have become adults. Where other parents may be viewed as “empty nesters” at this time in life, this community may continue to provide support in more fundamental ways than they might have imagined or our culture expects. For others, they might be confronted with the reality that they are not needed in the same ways that they were when their children were growing. As parents of children with disabilities, there is often access to a great deal of support; this is not always the case when our children become adults. Our goal is to provide a safe and supportive space for these issues to be voiced and heard by others with similar experiences.
What will happen during meetings/across the six sessions?
One of the primary objectives of the group is to develop mutual support. In order to achieve this, we will work collaboratively to tell our stories and to express our goals and dreams. This group is also meant as a way for parents to enter into their own self-care and so there will be a mindfulness element to help them deal with stress and discuss pathways to maintaining health. Many parents have worked very hard during their children’s developmental years to provide the access and supports that they needed to thrive. Now may be a time to reflect on that and also to look at the present and the future.
There will also be a psychoeducational and advocacy aspect to this group. Parents truly are the experts in their own lives and can share with each other the perspectives they have gained. Additionally, there are specific questions that many parents may have at this time. Issues such as trusts, social support networks, housing, insurance, employment, financial needs, legislative up-dates, advocacy for adult community inclusion, and transition planning will be addressed throughout the group and contact resources will be provided. Here, parents can learn how to transition into partnering roles of caring as allies to their children with disabilities who are now adults.
What do you hope for members to achieve with the knowledge they gain from the group?
Our hope is that participants will complete the group feeling that they have been heard, understood and supported. While this group might be a beginning, we hope that they will acquire new skills and information that will facilitate their own process of growth while continuing to care for their families members in healthy and productive ways.
Susan Sklaroff-Van Hook, MA, CCTP, is the clinical coordinator and resource specialist at JFS and one of the two facilitators of the new support group. The group will meet six times, beginning on November 10 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. Those who wish to participate should contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-821-8722 by November 7.