The World Within: Support groups help moms and dads



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Posted on December 29, 2009 at 4:57 PM

Once a month, after hours, at Seattle Children's Autism Center, moms and dads gather to share stories, concerns, and a common bond - caring for a child with autism.

Many of the parents attending tonight come regularly, ever since Lynn Vigo started the support group two years ago.

"There are support groups in the community for parents of kids who have Asperger's syndrome, but there wasn't anything to my knowledge out there for families of kids who are significantly affected and that offer child care," said Lynn.

That's another plus of "ALLY" - Autism Living Life and You" - a trained staff watches the kids while the grown-ups get to talk worry-free, uninterrupted.

"The phrase I hear more often than not from parents is they need to be around other people who get it," said Lynn.

Lynn certainly gets it. She has a daughter with autism, 13-year-old Carrie.

"It completely consumes your life and it changes your life in ways that you can't even imagine," she said.

Home video taken by Lynn's husband documents a typical day in the Vigo household, the constant supervision, lack of sleep and Carrie's obsession with string.

It's behavior a neighbor or stranger might find odd, but not here, inside Lynn's group.

"You know, parents feel good about coming to our support group because it doesn't bother them that their child is doing something a little quirky because if you look around everyone's kid is doing something a little quirky and it's ok," said Lynn. "In fact we as parents find the beauty in it. We find the uniqueness that the rest of the world doesn't see."

With that uniqueness comes isolation. All too often Lynn hears parents express how hard it is to find common ground with soccer moms and dads.

"I don't have anything to say when they start talking about their kids," said one parent, because they should be happy about their kids, they should be."

At the end of two hours, the parents leave feeling supported, stronger, as if life just got a little easier.