New autism support group to meet July 17 in H’burg

By BETH BUNCH,

A new support group for parents of children on the autism spectrum will hold its second meeting from noon-1 pm. Wednesday, July 17, at the Families First for Mississippi-Hattiesburg Center, 108 Sheffield Loop, Hattiesburg. This is a BYO-lunch meeting, which meets the third Wednesday of every month.

According to Jennifer Culpepper with the Mississippi Community Education Center, this group is open to any parents or caregivers of children on the autism spectrum.

“Parents will be able to connect with other families who have been through similar experiences,” she said.

Autism or autism spectrum disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, and speech and nonverbal communication, according to AutismSpeaks, a national organization which was founded in 2005 by grandparents of a child with autism.

The goal of this group is to provide an outlet for families to share problems, difficulties, solutions, get help and feedback from others. According to Culpepper, the main purpose of this group is to provide an outlet for the families, but overall the group has a very broad range of discussions.

The severity of autism varies from child to child with each person experiencing different strengths as well as different challenges, said Culpepper. “Autism is also continued into adulthood. Some people may need support in their daily lives, while others can work and live completely independently.”

She said the first meeting in June went well with participants talking about their children as well as sharing stories. “Some of the group members were having such a good time they stayed for a second hour,” Culpepper said.

This isn’t the first support group of this nature in the Hub City, according to group members. Culpepper said there have been other groups over time that struggled with consistent meetings. “We are hoping to be able to close that gap for these families,” Culpepper said.

Potential topics for discussion include advocating for your child, dealing with the impact of the entire family, navigating school and learning issues, investigating treatment options and resources, and behavior management techniques.

“At Families First For MS, we are really excited to be able to bring this outlet to our community,” Culpepper said. “We want the group to be about the participants, and want them to let us know what they expect and what they need in a support group. 

An RSVP is required and children are welcome at meetings. For more information, contact Culpepper at (601) 25507510 or jculpepper@mscec.org