Resources for Girls on the Spectrum

The Girls on the Spectrum Drop-in has been up and running for a month now and we have had so much fun getting to know girls from across the City!

I have had several parents ask about resources and support that is available in Ottawa for their girls.

While the following information will by no means be an exhaustive list of resources, it is what I have found to be helpful on our journey so far. Every day I’m learning more and will pass on what I learn to you!

If there are other great resources out there that I have not mentioned please share in the comments section.

When we first suspected that Miriam might be dealing with a learning disability, a therapist that I know suggested we have Miriam assessed at the Child, Adolescent and Family Centre of Ottawa (CAFCO). We had a wonderful experience there for Miriam’s assessment. Miriam’s psychologist has been very kind, patient and understanding with Miriam and has moved at Miriam’s pace. The assessment was very thorough and really helped us to identify Miriam’s strengths as well as areas where she would most likely need extra help.

Miriam is also attending an evening group at CAFCO called Friends for Life. This program helps children to build emotional resilience and teaches strategies that help with anxiety.

CAFCO is located at 320 Osgoode Street, Ottawa and can be reached by phone at 613-567-0777 or by email at admin@cafco-ceafo.ca. Their website address is :

https://www.cafco-ceafo.ca.

Resources – https://www.cafco-ceafo.ca/resources/

Their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/The-Child-Adolescent-and-Family-Centre-of-Ottawa-CAFCO-213734428798011/

Once we had Miriam’s diagnosis, I started looking for information regarding support and resources available in Ottawa.

Miriam and I attended the Autism Ontario – Ottawa Chapter’s Picnic this past summer and we were introduced to Marnie Potter , who is the Family Support Coordinator for East and South Eastern Ontario. Please contact her for systems navigation support, resources and advocacy. Her email is marnie@autismontario.com and phone messages can be left at 613-230-6305.

Marnie was able to point me in the direction of different resources, including the Social Butterflies program. This is a social program for girls on the Autism Spectrum aged 7-11. Six sessions are offered over three months in Kanata. Spots are limited and unfortunately when I went to register Miriam for the Fall session , the program was full, but stay tuned to the Autism Ontario – Ottawa Chapter’s website for their next sessions –

https://www.autismontario.com

I have recently met with ABC Pediatric Therapies, located at 1939 St.Joseph Boulevard in Orleans. This bilingual organization offers a wide array of therapies for children, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, behavioural therapy, holistic nutrition, naturopathy and counselling. Please visit their website at :

https://abcpediatrictherapies.ca.

I hope to coordinate some events at their location in Orleans in the coming months – stayed tuned!

The Autism Program at CHEO provides services to children on the autism spectrum and their families. To receive a referral package – please contact 1-877-542-2294 or 613-249-9355.

CHEO works in conjunction with the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC). The OCTC provides specialized care for children with multiple physical, developmental, and associated behavioural needs.

https://octc.ca/autism

You can also contact Service Coordination for People with Developmental Disabilities – Ottawa – admin@scsottawa.on.ca. This community organization helps families in finding resources and programs available to them and their children.

Other resources/programs people have shared with me include:

As I mentioned earlier, this is by no means a full list and any service I may have missed is only due to me not yet knowing about everything that is available. Please share what you have found helpful in the comments section.

Over the next few posts, I will continue sharing information regarding resources available in ottawa, including

  • financial support;
  • books about girls on the Spectrum;
  • online resources; and
  • social media support

As always, I want to remind you of our Girls on the Spectrum Drop-in which is held every Sunday from 1-3 pm at Orleans United Church – 1111 Orleans Boulevard.

I can be reached st 613-852-0828 or by email at girlsonthespectrumottawa@gmail.com

Hope to see you and your daughter soon!!

Suzanne

Community

I’ve always been someone who has found it hard to ask for help – I don’t like burdening others. When I first decided to start the Girls on the Spectrum drop-in I didn’t ask for help, but after I wrote about our first session on my blog, the session where no one came and I put a request out to spread the word – YOU stepped up and helped – our second and third drop-ins have been amazing and I wanted to say THANK YOU.

Thank you for spreading the word, for making calls to people you know, for offering donations of games, supplies, help and money, for posting our information on your websites, television programs, in your newsletters and in your information packages and also for your amazing words of love and support.

Thanks to YOUR support, this is becoming a reality for Miriam and other girls in our Community who are on the autism spectrum and need the opportunity to spend time with other girls just like themselves.

In a time where we are all so busy and we sometimes feel disconnected – this has reminded me that community is alive and well and there for you when you need help – without even having to ask for it. It really does take a village to raise a child – especially when your child has been diagnosed with a disability – and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

A Great Afternoon

As the first little girl got out of her car with her Dad, Miriam asked if she could run out to greet them. I said “Maybe we should wait until they come in sweetie, we don’t want to scare them off!”

Miriam was so excited to have the first little girl join us at the Drop-in. As the girls were playing I thought, even if we don’t have any other girls join us today, this is worth it. And then, within half an hour, 4 more girls showed up! It was such a wonderful thing to see, these six girls all together, playing.

A few of the girls were drawn to painting and crafts, while a couple played with Lego, board games and play doh.

One Mom commented that it was nice for the girls to have a group where it wasn’t completely structured and they could choose what activities they wanted to do in a relaxed setting.

If you live in Ottawa or the surrounding areas and your daughter is on the Autism Spectrum or you think that she might be, we would love to see you at one of our upcoming Drop-ins!

The Drop-in is open every Sunday afternoon from 1-3 pm at Orleans United Church and the cost is a pay what you can donation.

For more information, please contact Suzanne at girlsonthespectrumottawa@gmail.com or call me at 613-852-0828.

Getting the Word Out

Yesterday we held our first Drop-in for Girls on the Spectrum Ottawa. I was very excited and also quite nervous. I really wanted it to go well. I started setting up 3 hours prior to the start time – wanting everything to be just right. My hope for the first Drop-in was that if at least one girl came to play with Miriam it would all be worth it.

Miriam was so excited and kept asking when I thought other kids would get there. She was ready to play! As 1 pm came and went I thought, “People will come but maybe closer to 1:30”. At 2 pm and about 10 questions later from Miriam as to when kids would get there, I realized that most likely no one would be coming today. Mir and I still had fun! We molded clay, made crafts, played Jenga and hung out on the soft pillows. It was great!

I still have to admit though I had a pit in my stomach – did I get this all wrong? Was there really a gap that needed to be filled?

Before letting self doubt completely take over, I started recalling the many articles on girls with autism that I had read, the googling of programs for girls in Ottawa (several, but they were all full) and the words of support from many “in the know”. I decided to turn my thinking around. “Yes, this is needed!” and as a few friends and family mentioned to me later in the day – in reminiscence of Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come”. I do believe there is a need because we are experiencing this need ourselves – there must be others out there just like us. We just need to get the word out.

Girls on the Spectrum Ottawa is a not for profit Drop-in group for girls of all ages on the Autism Spectrum and their parents. The drop in runs every Sunday from 1-3 pm at Orleans United Church. Games, arts and crafts, Lego, play doh, puzzles, parental peer support and more are all available.

Please share with friends and family!

A Recent Conversation with my Daughter

I wanted to share with you a recent conversation my daughter had with me:

M: Mom, if I could, I would open an Autism Store.

Me: Oh really, what would you have in your store, sweetie?

M: Comfy clothes, soft carpets and pillows.

Me: What else would you have?

M: Books about Autism, board games for families to play, and toys for little kids. Oh ya, and Minecraft!!

And with that, I started thinking – Could we ever have a store like that?

While we’re not in a position to open an Autism store, what COULD we do? That’s when the idea of starting a drop-in program for girls on the Spectrum started. We could have all those things M mentioned available to kids in one place!

Next Sunday, October 15th we will be launching our “Girls on the Spectrum Ottawa Drop-in”.  We will have all sorts of activities, including board games, arts and crafts, play doh, Lego and soft pillows!

The program will run every Sunday from 1-3 p.m. in the Lounge at Orleans United Church (1111 Orleans Blvd, Orleans). We hope to see you there – and if you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, Suzanne, at girlsonthespectrumottawa@gmail.com or 613-852-0828.

I’m still working on the Minecraft piece but we are getting closer to realizing M’s dream of having a place with all the things that bring comfort to girls on the Autism Spectrum. What would your daughter have in her “Autism Store”? Let me know in the comments!pillows 

 

Girls on the Spectrum

I have to admit, when my daughter was first diagnosed at the age of 8, I had a pretty narrow view of Autism. I really didn’t know much and I definitely did not know that autism was experienced by boys more than by girls (at a ratio of 4:1) or that girls are often not diagnosed until their tween of teen years – which can mean that many years of support and intervention have been missed.

As a Mom new to this, I felt many emotions – relief that we had an answer, worry about how her life would turn out and questions about how I could help her. Her psychologist told us after we received the diagnosis that we would soon become experts on autism spectrum disorder. While I have a far way to go to becoming an expert, I have realized that knowledge will certainly help me to be a better advocate for my daughter. I do not have all the answers, and that’s okay and many days I feel so lost. While there are many great supports out there, it isn’t always a clear path to finding out what is available that could be helpful. Some of the resources I have learned about have just been by happenstance – I was in the right place, at the right time.

It was at first believed that autism really did not affect women. When Dr. Asperger first started researching this developmental issue, he was only looking at boys. The diagnostic tools that were then developed were geared around diagnosing boys specifically. It has only been in the last 20 years that more research has been done looking specifically at how autism affects girls and women.

In the short time since my daughter’s diagnosis I have already had several people comment to me when I have told them about my daughter’s diagnosis that “She doesn’t ‘look’ like she has autism”.  Girls are often much better at masking their symptoms when they are at school or in public and for many, these symptoms are not evident until they reach their teen years and puberty sets in. Girls socialize quite differently from boys and girls on the spectrum often find it hard to keep up with their peers. Social isolation is felt more acutely and depression and anxiety are often experienced.

Having an older neurotypical daughter and observing her range of emotions as she has moved through puberty has caused me concern for my daughter on the spectrum. How can I help her through this tough time? I am hoping that by finding the right resources now, I can help to make that transition a bit easier for her.

A few weeks ago, I decided to take things into my own hands and set up a drop-in program for girls on the spectrum and their parents here in Ottawa. The first drop-in does not take place for another 2 weeks but I have already received great support on this initiative. The drop-in will be a safe place where girls can interact with each other, try different activities and will provide an opportunity for parents and caregivers to support one another. My church, Orleans United, has very generously offered me space to get the program off the ground. If you live in the Ottawa, Ontario area and are interested in the Girls on the Spectrum drop-in, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me (girlsonthespectrumottawa@gmail.com).

All the best,

Suzanne

 

A New Program for Girls on the Spectrum in Ottawa

spectrum 2

Name: Girls on the Spectrum Ottawa Drop-in

Location: Orleans United Church, 1111 Orleans Blvd, Orleans,  ON – Lounge Room

Date: Sundays starting October 15th from 1-3 p.m.

Description: A space for girls of all ages on the Autism Spectrum and their parents to come and socialize and have fun in a safe environment.

  • Activities and socialization for girls
  • Peer support for parents
  • Sharing of resources
  • Guest speakers
  • Snacks

Please note – this is a not for profit program and is not a clinical type program. Organizers are parents of girls with Autism and parents are expected to attend with their daughters.

Cost: $5 drop in fee (per child), or pay what you can to cover costs of activity materials and coffee, tea, juice and snacks

For more information: Please contact Suzanne at girlsonthespectrumottawa@gmail.com or by phone at 613-852-0828