|Family Mentor Program: Connecting families
The MU Thompson Center recently expanded its Family Resource Services with the addition of a Family Mentor position. Becky Gerdes began work as the Thompson Center’s first Family Mentor in June 2009. Gerdes is the parent of three children, including one with an autism spectrum disorder. In her role as Family Mentor she works closely with the Thompson Center’s two Family Resource Specialists, Susan Austin and Susan Langstraat, who provide information and care coordination to families receiving care at the Thompson Center.
What does the Family Mentor do?
- Gerdes works with families seeking a connection with another family member for emotional support and understanding.
- Families are matched with a mentor who has similar experiences based on their child’s age or condition, their geographic area, or other factors that are important to the family.
- Mentors are located throughout the state.
- All mentors are trained through the Sharing our Strengths (SOS) parent to-parent/peer mentor program based at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
What happens when a match is made?
- Gerdes calls the family to let them know that the mentor will call them.
- The mentor then contacts the family to see how he/she can help with the family’s emotional needs.
- Gerdes follows up with the family to ensure that they are happy with the match. If so, the match continues. If the match does not work Gerdes assigns a new mentor for the family.
- A match continues for eight weeks or until the family no longer needs the services.
- At the end of the mentor process a member of the SOS evaluation team calls the family to gauge their satisfaction with the mentor and with the mentor program.
Said Gerdes of her involvement in the process, “I don’t always provide a mentor or additional resources. Sometimes I just empower and encourage a family and let them know that someone cares about them. I let them know I’m here to help if they need it.”
To date Gerdes has assisted more than 35 families through the Family Mentor Service.
“I have learned a lot from being involved with the program.” said Gerdes. “It has been amazing to see that the families involved appreciate having contact with someone in a similar circumstance. It is also good for the families to know that they are important and that someone has compassion for them.”
For more information about the Family Mentor program, please contact Becky Gerdes at 573-884-5728 or email@example.com.
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Autism Spectrum Disorders: Missouri’s Best Practice Guidelines for Screening,Diagnosis and Assessment
For those who have struggled with the lack of continuity in regard to the screening, diagnosis and assessment of autism spectrum disorders in Missouri children, hope for clarity is on its way in the form of a new guide to be released in early 2010. The product of a collaboration between health care providers, educators and parents of children with autism, the “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Missouri Best Practice Guidelines for Screening, Diagnosis and Assessment” will serve as a road map to ensure accurate diagnosis and treatment planning for all Missouri children who may have or have been diagnosed with autism.
“It will provide consistency in diagnosis and treatment planning for autism.” said Dr. Steve Kanne, Associate Director for the MU Thompson Center and member of the Project Initiation Team responsible for the guidelines document. “It will also serve as a much needed springboard for training about autism.” he added.