Vital People: Victoria Society for Children with Autism offers respite for caregivers

Caring for children on the autism spectrum can be a rewarding, but challenging, experience. Funding for respite and recreation for children and their families helps reduce stress, strengthen families and forge community bonds.

The Victoria Society for Children with Autism serves families living with children on the autism spectrum in Greater Victoria.

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It provides support for about 140 local families with monthly events, workshops, a book-and-equipment library and an annual Autism Fair.

While raising a child with autism can be gratifying, it can also be exhausting and lonely. Some parents/caregivers have had to leave or modify full-time employment to take care of their children.

Respite care is short-term care for a child so that primary caregivers can get a break.

“Our son is non-verbal and in the past has not been very social,” said a parent named Melody. “Because of this funding, he has the opportunity to be part of the community with his respite worker and is now very interested in participating in his own way with peers his age.

“It’s the most amazing thing to see this transformation. It’s funds like these that Victoria Society for Children with Autism and its funders provide that give us hope for his future. A huge thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Funding from the Victoria Foundation pays for a respite program for parents. The support programs can also be used to enable children to attend recreational and community events.

“The program fosters community inclusion for the autistic child and provides caregiver respite to reduce stress,” said Aaron Taylor, general manager for the Victoria Society for Children with Autism. “The Victoria Foundation and the community as a whole have been very generous in support of the program.”

This respite and recreation funding provides funds for the families during summer and winter breaks.

The respite program ensures that caregivers, while giving the best possible care to their children, take time to take care of themselves.

“This respite is the only time in the year that my husband and I get to spend to ourselves all year,” said parent Theresa T. “He works until 2 a.m. five nights a week and we have no family who are able to help with our son. These are our two nights a year that we get to ourselves. To be a couple — to go out to do something we want, eat something that we like and to get an entire uninterrupted night of sleep. It’s just glorious.”

For more information, go to victoriaautism.ca.

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