The role of the ASNC Support Groups Specialist is truly unique. There are seven Support Groups Specialist positions across the state, six of which are filled by a remarkable team of ladies who serve their local regions. Have you ever wondered how an Autism Society of North Carolina Support Group leader developed their group and became an ASNC volunteer? It started with a Support Groups Specialist.
Support Groups Specialists work for the Family Supports Department of ASNC and closely collaborate with the ASNC Supports Group Director and Support Groups Coordinator. Support Groups Specialists wear many hats within their roles and their regions, with a main focus of recruiting, training and supporting ASNC Support Group Leaders and volunteers.
ASNC Support Group Leaders are parents, siblings or spouses to a loved one on the autism spectrum. Support Group Leaders undergo extensive training with their Support Groups Specialist to understand how support groups operate under the ASNC umbrella. There are certain guidelines and procedures that ASNC Support Groups follow to ensure alignment with the organization’s non-profit status. It is no secret that these leaders juggle multiple tasks on a daily basis, just as any family in our autism community would. Support Groups Specialists are there to help leaders each step of the way, from understanding what support group process to follow, to planning meetings and events, and ensuring that leaders do not feel alone in their venture to serve their local community.
Support Group Leaders call on their Support Groups Specialists when they need:
- To plan a fundraiser to build the Support Group budget
- To make a purchase for a Support Group event
- Ideas to increase support group attendance
- To schedule a topic presentation
- Extra help at a meeting or event
- To connect a group member with ASNC
- Help checking support group Facebook and email inquiries
- To meet other leaders to share ideas
In my own region (the Triangle Area), I have built on and continue to learn from a really strong and consistent region of Support Group Leaders. By partnering with leaders and connecting them through trainings and gatherings, my team and I have increased our community outreach with newer concepts and ideas. My region has piloted allowing parent volunteers to host meet ups in their own area, from offering opportunities targeted for certain groups such as younger children, teens, adults and even grandparents, to exploring advertising ploys through Support Group Signs and t-shirts, to building connections in their own communities.
Those connections can include partnering with members of their local chambers of commerce, participating in resource fairs, working as event planners or consultants, and acting as sponsors at local events. I truly value being a partner with leaders and volunteers and helping them carry out their visions – while also helping volunteers understand and appreciate non-profit parameters and guidelines.
Personally, I am a sister to an older brother with autism who is considered high-needs. He has been my teacher and inspiration to work in the autism field for the past 15 years. My career has reached into clinical work with TEACCH and the DHHS Early Intervention Program, but my home lies in my current role as an ASNC Support Groups Specialist. It is so rewarding to bring families together and provide outlets where they can connect with each other in a judgment-free zone. All that behind-the-scenes work to bring events to life is worth it when you see how families are directly impacted by the dedication of our ASNC Support Group Leaders and Support Groups Specialists.
If you are in a region of North Carolina with no Autism Society of North Carolina Support Group and want to start one, or if you want to become more involved with your own local ASNC Support Group, contact Marty Kellogg and she will be glad to connect you with your local Support Groups Specialist.