Chris Walsh Center
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A center at Framingham State University dedicated to helping families and educators of children with unmet needs.
Caregiver Support Group Schedule
Building Resiliency: A Group for Caregivers of Neurodivergent Children
The Chris Walsh Center is excited to announce our first caregiver support group for fall 2023: Building Resiliency: A Group for Caregivers of Neurodivergent Children. The support group is facilitated by two mental health clinicians Deborah McMakin, Ed.D., M.A., LICSW and Jessica Ames, a Licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW).
Come join this 5 week support group, taking place online and starting October 17th at 7:00 PM, to engage in family resilience building activities and take time for yourself with caregivers on a similar journey. Caregivers will have the opportunity to learn from and support each other over the course of the 5 weeks we spend together, therefore we ask that you register for the first meeting and attend as many meetings as possible.
Caring for a neurodivergent child is a journey with unexpected joys and challenges. While caregivers often enjoy their child's strengths, unique personalities and accomplishments, they may also face unique challenges, such as how and when to communicate their child’s learning and emotional needs to others, how to advocate for their child and teach them to advocate for themselves, and how to focus on their child’s unique abilities rather than labels or misconceptions.
Group topics include strengthening relationships (with your child and their supporters), increasing your child’s self confidence and self advocacy skills (helping them define their own goals and build their resiliency), as well as managing and reframing unwanted labels in your community. Skill building exercises, discussions as well as time for mutual support and questions will be part of each session.
To register for the Building Resiliency: A Group for Caregivers of Neurodivergent Children, Thursdays from 7:00 PM to 8:15 PM, October 17th through November 16th, and learn more about the facilitators, Deborah McMakin, Ed.D., M.A., LICSW and Jessica Ames, LICSW please CLICK HERE.
Meet Our Graduate Assistants!
The Chris Walsh Center is excited to introduce the two Graduate Assistants, Emily Farnhill and Natalie McCollum, who began working with the Center in September.
Emily serves as the Chris Walsh Center’s graduate intern for the 2023-2024 academic year. She is currently undergoing the Master of Arts Program in Counseling Psychology at Framingham State University to become a LMHC. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Marketing and has worked as a full-time Events & Logistics Director for the past 8 years. At the Chris Walsh Center, Emily runs the center’s social media accounts and parent support groups in hopes to learn the unique needs and struggles of students and the community to better serve this population. . She enjoys spending her downtime practicing yoga, playing with her niece and nephew, and walking her dog, Franklin.
Natalie is serving as the Chris Walsh Center’s Graduate Assistant for the 2023-24 academic year. She is enrolled in Framingham State University’s Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program, working toward her long-term goal of serving neurodivergent and disabled clients as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. Likewise, she completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, also at Framingham State. Natalie believes in a neurodiversity affirming, person-centered approach, and brings that perspective to her work as a student, volunteer, and parent. In her free time, Natalie volunteers with ArtRelief, helping facilitate their weekend kid’s programming and the ArtLab, their creative community space. She is also an avid roller skater, volunteering as a coach and official with New England Junior Roller Derby, supporting kids ages 10-17 in a neurodivergent and LGBTQIA+ friendly space as they build friendships, learn to work as a team, and strengthen their athleticism and resilience. Last, but not least, Natalie is the mother of two wonderful children and has six adorable pets: four cats, a dog, and an axolotl. When it’s time to slow down, she loves to snuggle up with her human and fur babies to read a good book.
The Chris Walsh Center Received a Sudbury Foundation Grant
The Chris Walsh Center, in partnership with the Education Department and the Master of Arts with a concentration in Counseling Psychology (MCO) program at Framingham State University (FSU) received an $18,500 grant from the Sudbury Foundation. This grant will allow the Chris Walsh Center to serve our community with a variety of offerings focused on building family resiliency and supporting the mental well-being of children with disabilities. In addition to the development of enhanced curriculum for the community, the grant enabled the Center to hire an additional Graduate Assistant from the Master of Arts concentration in Counseling Psychology program. The Sudbury Grant also provides the opportunity to invite educational panelists and speakers, hire a translator to make webinar recordings available to Spanish speaking community members, and hire a licensed mental health professional to help in our mission of supporting caregivers and their families.
To provide caregivers with robust information to help them support the mental health of their children, the Center will be hosting eight webinars. These webinars will include topics such as cultivating an asset-based mindset and seeing resilience in your child, empathy and listening skills for parents/caregivers of children with acute emotional needs, and disability awareness and acceptance of a child’s diagnosis. Two webinars will be hosted in the fall and six in the spring semester.
Caregivers will also have the opportunity to attend a discussion group two weeks after each webinar. This will be a chance to talk with others about key takeaways, ask questions to support implementation of new skills, and provide information and strategies to support your whole family. Each discussion group will be open to 30 caregivers and be facilitated by a master of counseling graduate student.
Importantly, the Chris Walsh Center will also be offering two online caregiver support groups. Caregiver support groups will focus on the needs parents have shared with the Center; including navigating resources, learning specific techniques to support your child and provide support for you, the caregiver. At each support group, a licensed mental health professional, as well as a graduate student in the mental health counseling program will be present to facilitate the group for caregivers in attendance. CLICK HERE to register for the first online caregiver support group Building Resiliency: A Group for Caregivers of Neurodivergent Children, on October 17th at 7:00PM
Getting Out In the Community and Raffle Winners!
Our Center Coordinator, Therese Atjum-Roberts, was at the Framingham Public School New Talent Expo. While there, she raffled off a copy of The Identity Conscious Educator, a fabulous book on the importance of recognizing and understanding the identity categories of race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, and disability when creating an inclusive school system.
The winner of this raffle is Kelsey Donovan!
Therese was also at Framingham State's New Education Student's table, raffling the same book.
The winner of this raffle is Jennifer Gallagher!
Congratulations to our winners! You will be receiving emails with further information on collecting your prize.
Introducing the 2023 Interns
Julia Taliaferro, Political Science Intern
Julia is a senior at Framingham State University, majoring in Political Science and completing her degree as a member of the Honors College. Julia works with disabled adults and the elderly at work as a nursing assistant. She looks forward to carrying that care into work as an educator in the coming years. Julia’s internship with the Chris Walsh Center will strengthen her knowledge on creating safe and equitable spaces for her future students to pursue knowledge that will serve them in their later lives and careers.
Mackenzie Boyle, Criminology Intern
Resource of the Month:
In honor of the International Week of the Deaf, September 19-25, and the International Day of Sign Languages, September 23, the Chris Walsh Center resource of the month is the ASL Bloom app. American Sign Language (ASL) can be used to facilitate communication for a variety of people including those who are Deaf, minimally verbal, and those who struggle to access spoken language when distressed.
The ASL Bloom app offers short, easy to follow lessons starting with the basics and building up to a more robust vocabulary. In addition to lessons, a dictionary of signs is also available. Learning is designed to be self paced. Users can go for a streak, see how many signs they have learned, and earn points as they expand their ASL vocabulary. Basic content can be accessed for free, or paid versions of the app are available for those who want to learn even more at $48 for 3 months or $99 for the year. You can download the ASL Bloom app at https://app.aslbloom.com.