Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) consistently report experiencing high levels of psychological distress. This talk, by Kiruthiha Vimalakanthan, provides an overview of the development and initial impact of the CARES initiative, a psychosocial intervention that equips parents with a repertoire of skills that they can use to safeguard their own mental health. Using a peer-based model, this program’s overarching goal is to provide a culturally responsive platform that can not only support skills-based learning but also foster open conversations about mental health and the shared experience of caring for a child with ASD. More broadly, this talk will discuss how low-resource initiatives such as this one have the potential to empower a community to care for their own.
Kiruthiha Vimalakanthan, MA, is a PhD candidate in clinical psychology at the University of Waterloo. Driven by her passion to improve access to mental health supports in diverse communities, Kiruthiha has consulted on various projects at the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC). Kiruthiha’s primary role at SAAAC is the development and supervision of the CARES initiative, which employs a task-shifting peer-based model to provide mental health support for caregivers of children with autism.