Autism Support Groups for Parents, Families & Children —The Ultimate Guide
What is a support group?
A support group is defined as “a group of people with common experiences or concerns who provide each other with encouragement, comfort, and advice.”
There are support groups for most common illnesses, disabilities, and addictions. Support groups are vital for families, friends, loved ones, and caregivers of those experiencing life’s challenges.
Benefits of autism support groups
People on the spectrum and their families benefit greatly from autism support groups. Being in a support group for autism can help a person with autism or his/her caregiver:
- Feel less isolated
- Share strategies in dealing with certain situations
- Seek expert advice
- Vent frustrations safely (no judgments)
- Avoid going into depression
Mandi Silverman, a clinical psychologist in the Child Mind Institute, says that autism support groups “can really fill a gap for parents who might not know anyone with a child who is on the autism spectrum.”
Susan Kleiman, a mom of a child with autism, founded the online group Special Moms Network to provide a place where parents understand one another because of similar experiences. Kleiman, whose child was diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disorder (NLD), says that “no one I knew had heard of it or knew anything about NLD. I got stupid comments like ‘But he speaks so well,’ ‘He’s too smart to have that’ or ‘I’m sure he will outgrow it.’”
Another mom with two autistic sons, Lee Ann Klopp Owens, says that joining an autism support group “honestly saved my sanity many times.”
Kinds of autism support groups
There are many kinds of support groups, and this applies to autism support groups as well. Groups can vary in purpose which is usually determined by the group leader.
- Peer-led support groups. These groups are led by parents of children with autism. They are often formed for giving and receiving advice, as well as getting emotional support.
- Education support groups. These are groups that focus on providing the latest information to its members. Some groups meet and encourage members to deliver a presentation about a certain topic regularly.
- Professionally-led support groups. These groups are usually led and funded by organizations who pursue autism as advocacy. Groups like these are often run by psychologists, social workers, or school personnel.
Family support groups for autism
There are thousands of support groups around the world. Finding a support group in your location is now made easy with a quick Google search. Simply type “autism support group” followed by your city or location. Autism Empowerment provides a worldwide listing of resources
There is no one institution that manages autism support groups in the United States. However, some large groups can have several “branches” or “chapters” in different locations across the country.
Here are some examples of autism support groups:
Family Network on Disabilities (FND)
FND is a parent organization that aims to integrate and get equal rights for people with special needs including autism. It is based in Dunedin, Florida.
AHA (Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism) Support Group for Parents and Family Members
AHA is a big support group with different subgroups for people and families that deal with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism. The organization was founded in 1988 and is located in New York.
CARD Support Group
The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) is based in North Central Florida. They have support groups across the United States and hold weekly meetings. The schedule for support group sessions is posted on the website.
To look for more resources, visit this site and select your state from the drop-down box. You should get a list of groups and organizations that offer support for people and families affected by autism.
Additionally, you can check out a bigger database from Yellow Pages for Kids, which is a nationwide directory of services for kids with special needs. Another database to check out is Autism Source, which was created in 2004 by the Autism Society.
Online Support Group for Parents of Young Children With Autism
Some parents or guardians may not have the time or means to be physically present to participate in autism support group meetings.
As an alternative, there are many support groups online where parents, families, and caregivers can communicate in forums, social networks, and other web-based platforms.
Today, Facebook groups are the most common platform for autism support groups since most modern parents already have personal Facebook accounts and can easily join any group.
Spectrum Site has compiled quite a long list of online communities for parents and people with autism. This includes pages such as Autistics Worldwide, Karleigh’s Story – The Awesomeness of ASD, and The Autcast Asperger’s and Autism Community. Autism Support Groups for Families is another excellent community.
Finding people from all over the world who experience the presence of autism in their lives may sound wonderful, but it can also be a cause of conflicting ideas and opinions.
To ensure that you maintain good relationships in a group, you should:
- Read the rules and guidelines. Most groups will have these somewhere on their page, and it’s a requirement to read them before participating in discussions and/or posting new content.
- Reserve judgment of others. People go to support groups because it’s where they feel safe from judgment. Understand that autism is different for every parent, so keep an open mind and focus on encouraging others rather than being negative.
- Protect your child’s privacy. Whatever you post on groups are seen by other members. Don’t disclose personal information like your address or where your child goes to school.
- Be helpful. You never know how simple advice might help a fellow parent.
Caring for a child or person with autism can sometimes take a toll on a parent or caregiver. While it is important that the child should be the priority, it is equally important that parents and caregivers get the emotional support they need.
Finding or Starting a Support Group. Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/Finding-or-Starting-a-Support-Group
How Parent Support Groups Can Help. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/how-parent-support-groups-can-help/
Family Support for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=family-support-for-autism-spectrum-disorder-160-24
AHA Support Groups. Retrieved from http://ahany.org/aha-membership/aha-support-groups/#1
Support/Social Groups. Retrieved from http://card.ufl.edu/resources/support-groups/
About Us (FND). Retrieved from https://fndusa.org/who-we-are/about-us-2/
Kim Barloso is a freelance writer and editor based in the Philippines. She works from home while taking care of two kids, one of whom has autism.
Autism Parenting Magazine tries to deliver honest, unbiased reviews, resources, and advice, but please note that due to the variety of capabilities of people on the spectrum, information cannot be guaranteed by the magazine or its writers. Medical content, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained within is never intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read within.