Parents of Children with ASD and Other Special Needs:

For years, San Diego Kids First and I have been there for your child.
But a child’s diagnosis impacts the entire family.
That’s why we are also here for you.

We all need support. Even those without any obvious obstacles, without named, “official” issues, benefit from knowing, empathetic guidance from time to time. Add in the complications of typical family dynamics, and that need intensifies. On top of that, add all the stressors and difficulties of parenting a child diagnosed with ASD or other special needs…

  • Uncertainty about the diagnosis and long-term prognosis of your child
  • Navigating school bureaucracy to obtain proper in-school support
  • Handling at-home behavioral issues
  • Grappling with secondary conflicts within the rest of the family that inevitably arise
  • Dealing with others’ lack of understanding about your child’s diagnosis
  • Coping with chronic sleep deprivation
  • Family tensions about how best to move forward

Candidly, it would be foolhardy to take all that on by yourself. It’s exhausting, and you can’t pour from an empty cup. I have personally worked with countless families who have needed, asked and would benefit from support for just these kinds of challenges. That’s why I’m so excited finally to be able to offer it!

To care for your child with special needs, you must care for yourself.

And it’s not just about dealing with stressors. I always remind clients that, by taking care of yourself, you put yourself in the right frame of mind appreciate your child’s amazing strengths! Kids with special needs usually have special gifts, as well. And the surest path to growth in areas of challenge is to build on existing strengths.

Meeting with parents and caregivers, we have always emphasized the importance of parent education and ongoing support. To that end, we have offered our Bright Stars video series for parents, as well as a Parent Buddy program to pair up parents of kids with ASD.  Programs like these are helpful, but we have always seen the need to provide more direct and substantial support. As a mom and as a professional, I have noticed that when parents seek help for themselves as parents, the best outcomes are realized for their child, their marriage, other siblings…the whole family!
There are no magic bullets, of course. But there are better ways. Time and again, I have remarked on the need for parent support, regretting that we lacked the staffing to provide that support in the best, most helpful ways.

But now, we can!

In our previous newsletter, I introduced you to a couple of exciting new additions to our team, including Kimberly Brownell, LCSW, LICSW. Kim’s extensive therapeutic background and her in-depth experience working with school districts ideally suits her to providing the kind of support so badly needed by the parents and caregivers of kids with ASD and other special needs, including:

  • Understanding and dealing with a new diagnosis
  • Coaching and counseling for family dynamics issues
  • Guidance and support for working with school districts
  • Stress and sleep management
  • Assembling a customized set of support services
  • Couples work, for tensions and disagreements in the wake of a diagnosis

Kim will be available for personal meetings for all parents following our initial set of recommendations, and for regular, ongoing support for all those families who will surely benefit from her unique background and expertise. In addition, if you are in need of 504/IEP planning assistance for your child, Kim wrote a great article called “7 Important Things Every Parent Should Know About Your Child’s 504/IEP Plan” that is posted on our website!


Deb Pontillo, Ph.D.
Director, San Diego Kids First