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MetroWest Autism Alliance Expanding its Portuguese Support Group

Susan Petroni, Framingham Source Editor
Framingham Source
May 10, 2017

FRAMINGHAM – The Autism Alliance of MetroWest, a program of Advocates, is expanding its monthly Portuguese Support Group to better meet the needs of Portuguese-speaking families in the MetroWest area who are caring for a loved one with autism.

With a $7,600 grant from the Foundation for MetroWest, the Autism Alliance has been able to hire interpreters for the monthly support group and other events, provide families with visual supports and sensory materials to aid their children at home, translate educational materials into Portuguese, and make stipends available for families to use to pay for child care while attending the group.

“As the support group continues to grow, there is a need for funding to keep the program going into the future and to ensure more Portuguese-speaking families in the MetroWest region have access to this service,” said Diane Gould, President and CEO of Advocates.  “We are grateful that the Foundation for MetroWest recognizes this need, enabling us to help these families overcome the linguistic barriers they face to getting support and care.”

The Autism Alliance launched the Portuguese Support Group nearly two years ago.

With the grant funds, the Autism Alliance has been able to increase staffing to accommodate the growing size of the group.  Two Autism Alliance staff, Executive Co-Director Allison Daigle and Autism Specialist Kathy Paquette, co-facilitate the group with two Portuguese-speaking clinicians, Jessica Da Silva and Marcia Nascimento.

“These groups are an absolute lifesaver to many Portuguese-speaking parents of children with autism who don’t have family support and aren’t aware of the services available to them,” said Da Silva, a bilingual care coordinator and family liaison.  “The support group provides parents with a community of individuals who face similar experiences and are eager to build relationships and learn from one another.  I am happy to see the group continues to grow and thrive.”

The support group meets monthly for two hours.

Families gain valuable information and training about autism, how to best advocate for their children’s needs, and how to access benefits and community resources.  Beyond the support group, the families participate in many of the recreational, social and skills development programs offered by the Autism Alliance, including school vacation activities, family events like Kite Day, swim programs, and the sensory open gym.

“The Autism Alliance is my safe place to turn to during the difficult moments of my life as a mother of two with autism,” said Andrea, who attends the support group.  “Everyone at the Alliance is so knowledgeable.  They know what they are doing and know how to help.”