There is an immense need for support groups for autism, especially as more is understood about the extent of Austism Spectrum Disorder throughout the world. It has been said that the first words out of a parent's mouth, upon learning that their child has autism, are "Help me!"
That's understandable, as the challenges can be immense. Unfortunately, they are also not always well understood by the usual avenues of support such as schools, doctors, or religious organizations. For this reason, many parents and autism care providers have banded together to combine resources. Today there are many support groups for autism - related disorders ranging from high-functioning Aspergers patients to those children diagnosed with combinations of Downs Syndrome and Aspergers.
Finding Support Groups for Autism
Thanks to the internet, it is not as hard as it used to be to find a support group. Even better, it is possible to find the particular style of group that best suits your situation.
Regional Support Groups
The quickest way to find a support group that is local to your area is to simply type into Google "Autism support group" + (your location). Most support groups have at least a listing on some web page, and finding something like the Asperger's Association of New England (AANE). While technically a regional organization, the AANE has become nationally known for its extensive resources and well-planned conferences and seminars. Aside from simple online information (which is extensive) the organization aims to provide other services such as
- Social & Activity Groups
- Speaker Bureau
- Help with Employment
- Government Lobbying
and other services.
While other regions may not have quite this quality of support group, there is some kind of autism-advocate organization in almost every area. And if not, there is another kind of support group:
Online Support Groups
If the added challenge of traveling to a face-to-face meeting is more than you feel like facing, it is possible to find a wealth of resources online. Starting right here at LoveToKnow's Autism Channel, many articles have links to websites ranging from the wide-ranging Autism Speaks to more focused groups such as Carol Gray's Social Stories. The web has become a tremendous tool in the sharing of research, lobbying efforts, and simply the ongoing journeys of those with autism and their families. Almost every Autism website also features links to other websites, so if one doesn't have the information you need, another might. The Online Asperger Syndrome Information & Support (OASIS) page is a good example, with links to websites, user forums, international and national websites, as well as more specialized support.
Special Interest Groups
Because research into autism treatments is a relatively new science, and because there are so many aspects to both the disorder and the treatments that are not understood yet, there are many different ways to deal with the challenges of autism. Some feel that a gluten-free diet is the key, some feel that it doesn't matter. Online special-interest groups such as the Autism Network for Dietary Intervention can provide a great deal of support and ongoing information, as well as being a venue for contacting other families struggling through the same challenges.
One last form of support comes not so much from organized groups as from the growth of social networking. Blogs, photojournals, videos uploaded simply putting a fellow human face to the difficulties of autism all provide a personal, agenda-free account of what is going on in the real lives of people dealing with ASD. Sites like The Online Autism Support Group provide simple portals to reading these accounts.
Sharing Your Story
The main theme of all support groups for autism - of support groups of any kind - is the idea that shared pain is lessened and shared joy is increased. There is strength in numbers, and even if you do not feel that you need the support of a group, the group almost certainly needs the support of you.