To educate, connect, and empower families and individuals with exceptionalities by providing the tools and support required to foster relationships, and make informed decisions regarding their daily life, education, and future.
Parent Mentor Program
Parent mentoring is key to what we do. Parents who have a child, youth or young adult with a disability or chronic illness often feel helpless and alone. Talking with someone who has “been there” can bring a sense of security to parents who wonder what to do when their child does not fit the pattern for the usual growth and development.
My oldest son started going to speech and occupational therapy at 15 months and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of three. He started group therapy with other kids with high functioning autism that Fall, and although it was meant to benefit him, I will never forget the effect it had on me. For two hours every week I got to sit in a room with parents who totally GOT IT! While I had many sympathetic and understanding friends, there was nothing that could compare with sharing my ups and downs with someone who had the same frustrations and ridiculous joy over, what would seem to others, tiny successes. This made me understand the value of sharing stories, encouragement, laughter and tears with someone whose experience was just like mine.
I was connected with a few parents, who, like me, felt a group created by parents for parents to support families of children with exceptionalities was long overdue in our area. And, the Waterloo Region Family Network (WRFN) was born! Because of my personal experience I immediately felt very connected to the Parent Mentor component of WRFN. I signed up to be in the first wave of parent mentors and loved every minute I spent on the phone or at a coffee shop or exchanging emails with other moms in the same boat as me. I have given advice on how to talk to teachers, how to structure daily activities, how to support sensory issues, and how to get through an overwhelming situation when nobody else understands.
What I have come to learn is that, while, yes, I am a mentor, I am also always a bit of a “mentee” as well. I am so grateful for the connections I have made with all of my families. Everybody brings different experiences and has their own ideas. So many times when I am “helping” a family, I come away with something that I can use in my own life. I learn as I offer advice. I feel understood as I offer understanding. I feel supported as I offer support. WRFN’s parent mentor program has shown me how much we, as parents, need each other and can be there for each other like no one else can.
Belonging to a community of support is paramount to family wellness. Parents, children, youth and young adults have a greater sense of belonging and increased awareness of community resources, enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem through our network. Strong families, regardless of the challenges they face, help to create a healthy community for all.
Your donation will help us create a community where all individuals with disabilities, and their families, are empowered to make educated decisions about their lives. Our network started out with eight families and now supports over 1,100, with a growth rate of 35%. Your contribution will go directly to providing support and guidance to these families and individuals.
WRFN receives no government funding and relies solely on the generosity of our volunteers, donors and community partners. Your gift offers immediate resources for our families and allows us to implement several options for family support. We will continue to enhance our Parent Mentor training, offer more group support, and will focus on self-care for our families and mentors through our Family Conference.
To make an online donation please visit our Canada Helps page.