Support group for parents of children with special needs meets Wednesday

Support group co-facilitators Alice Barber and Jennifer Bogin. (Photo submitted)

WESTFIELD – A parent/guardian support group for families with students on IEPs will be held on Wednesday, March 13, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Forum House, 55 Broad St. The group is free and confidential, and offers support to parents and guardians with the emotional journey of raising a child with special needs, said Jennifer Bogin, a board certified behavior analyst who runs the group with Alice Barden, a certified mental health counselor.
Bogin is an autism specialist who has done training in the Westfield Public Schools. When the special education department recently received a grant, administrator Martha van Mering asked the parents from the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC), who suggested using the funds to support families. Mering agreed this would be a good place to put resources, and SEPAC approached Bogin.
Bogin said the group is for parents of children with all different kinds of special needs. “Having a child with disabilities, there can be quality of life issues. It may be different than people imagined,” Bogin said. She said the purpose of the group is to help parents on this particular journey, to talk about what it’s like, and the impact on them of having a child with special needs.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s always negative. People tend to say negative things. We also celebrate what a gift it is to have a child with differences,” Bogin added.
Bogin said the group is not about advocacy or resources, “it’s about emotional support for families,” adding that’s why a mental health counselor is co-facilitator. She said it’s a free-flowing agenda, that “goes where it needs to go.” She also said the school is not involved in the group, by design – they don’t see the agendas for the meeting, and don’t know who comes.
Students from the Westfield High School National Honor Society have volunteered to do child care, and snacks will be made available.
Bogin said the support group is a pilot this year, and will likely go through the end of the school year. It meets the second Wednesday of every month until then, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. She said at the first group in January (February’s group was cancelled), 12 to 15 mothers and fathers attended. She also said there is plenty of room for more parents to join them.
For more information or to RSVP, email [email protected].

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