Familiar Voices: Autism Support Groups

One of the most comforting experiences is the sound of a familiar voice, especially one you haven’t heard in a long time.

Colorful image of five multicolored hands meeting in a circle. Autism Connection logo in bottom right corner

Grandparent Autism Support Group Comes Full Circle

There are those who look for help, and in the process, help others. Nichole Givner leads the Grandmothers with Love Autism Support Group in Pittsburgh, and I met her five years ago when she was seeking help, not only for her family, but for grandparents experiencing the same struggles. We initially met in person at Eat-n-Park in the Waterfront to talk with her support group about presuming competence, and to share resources, strength and hope.

“Grandparents play a key role in our grandchildren’s lives. We carry a double weight,” Nichole says in a soothing tone. As a grandparent, she tirelessly connects with local agencies, education programs, and therapists to ensure that her granddaughter has every opportunity to reach her fullest potential. As a parent, Nichole acquires and shares skills she has developed as a primary support for her daughter. She does this in part by helping others who have the same needs.

The Grandmothers with Love Autism Support Group currently meets monthly on Zoom, and Nichole brings in presenters who offer guidance, ranging from therapists to special education teachers and Early Intervention specialists. “How can grandparents recreate what is working in the classroom in the home? How can we give our children the support they need to make sure they are getting everything they need?” she asks rhetorically. “We do this by gaining knowledge.”

Nichole’s mission is clear, and her impact in the autism community resonates that it really is about the power of shared experience. We talked about making connections, serving as a lifeline, and most importantly, we talked about our children and her grandchildren. Toward the end of the conversation, she mentioned, “I didn’t recognize your name at first, but I recognized your voice.” This, to me, was one of the most encouraging sentiments considering the effect the sound of Nichole’s voice had on me when I first picked up the phone.

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