For years, we've been told that it takes a village to raise a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted child. When that person has autism, the need for community is even more acute.
Children with autism rely on their network to help them navigate the world around them. The more you know about the disorder, how it works, and how others cope, the better you can help your family adjust to this new reality.
Some resources for autism apply to anyone who wants to learn more, but there are some that target specific audiences. In this guide, we'll highlight resources made just for:
- Parents. Learn more about how autism touches children, how parents navigate critical systems, and what you can do to help your child.
- Teachers. Find out more about your roles and responsibilities in the classroom, and learn more about how you can support your students, no matter where they fall on the spectrum.
- Allies. Grandparents, siblings, and friends can also help children with autism, and plenty of resources exist to help you do just that.
Autism Resources for Parents
Researchers say parents who focus on solving problems, getting help, and finding meaning deal with autism parenting struggles better than parents who hope to avoid their problems and emotions. Tapping into autism resources can help you learn, grow, and connect with peers. Those benefits could help to lower your sense of stress.
For some parents, digging into the science of autism brings a sense of calm and control. Studies can be dense, and some parents find parsing language challenging, but if you enjoy finding out about the science of autism, plenty of resources are available.
- A Parent's Guide to Research. Download this guide from the Organization for Autism Research and learn more about the current state of autism data. Find out how to determine the authenticity of a study too.
- Free autism webinars. Connect with the Autism Research Institute and attend a free online seminar about current research topics in autism. Choose your topic, enroll, and prepare to learn.
- Your child's doctor. Don’t forget that your child’s pediatrician should be a primary source of information. Schedule an appointment to talk about your concerns, and bring along research to discuss before you make any decisions about your child’s care.
Social Media Sites
Do more than share adorable photos of your child. Connect with other parents, learn from your peers, and get support when you need it. Autism Speaks says participating in an online community like this can help to reduce a sense of isolation.
- Twitter. Use hashtags like #autism or #autismparent to find threads of conversation and authors to follow.
- Facebook. Join pages like Autism Mom Support Group, or run a search to find a local group that's just right for you.
If you'd like to join a community but find the idea of social media off-putting, reach out to alternative sites such as My Autism Team. You can sign in with your social media account, or you can use your email to connect.
In-Person Support Groups
Researchers say among parents of children with autism, one in five qualifies for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. If you show troublesome symptoms, your doctor may refer you to a support group. Studies show that a referral is a top prompt for parents to explore these groups.
You don't have to wait for your doctor's permission. Search for a parent's support group via:
- The National Autism Society. Use the online directory to connect with chapters in your state. Ask about opportunities to meet with other parents.
- Your local hospital. Connect with the health education department, and ask about support groups for parents of children with autism. The hospital may hold general support groups for parents of disabled children, and those may also be helpful.
Books to Deepen Your Research
Websites and social media sites share information in bits and pieces. If you'd rather take a deep dive into the world of autism and how it's treated, look into books.
- The Autism Support Network. The long list of books included here features resources to assist with potty training, play style, and college admissions.
- Autism Speaks. This user-generated list of books includes first-person accounts written by people with autism, and it includes many pieces written with parents in mind.
- Autism Community Store. Buy books directly from this website, and learn more about how parents help their children cope with common autism challenges.
Autism Resources for Teachers
Children with autism spend a significant amount of time with their teachers. In your role, you help to shape these young minds and offer lessons that will persist throughout the lifespan.
Even if you’re not designated as a special education teacher, you may have students with autism sitting in your classroom. The more you know, the better you can help them.
If you've never worked with a child who has autism, you might feel a little overwhelmed about the task ahead of you. Start by understanding the research and terminology, and you can build on that knowledge later.
Good options for teachers just learning about autism include:
- Teacher's Corner. This section of the Organization for Autism Research website offers basic autism definitions, along with data about education-specific topics, such as IEPs.
- Topic Categories. This page on the National Association of Special Education Teachers website offers plenty of information for teachers new to autism. Find out about the different types of autism, learn more about modifying your classroom, and tap into vetted resources to help you deepen your knowledge.
- Teaching Students with Autism. This guide from the National Education Association is made for K-12 educators. Learn more about how to communicate with your students, and find out how autistic students typically perform in the classroom.
Some students with autism need no adjustments to a typical classroom setup. Connect them with a desk, books, and your standard curriculum, and they'll do just fine. However, many students with autism need help from teachers to thrive.
Online resources can help you make critical adjustments to your classroom to make things easier for your students with autism. Start your research with:
- Autism Classroom. Use this website to adjust the design or setup of your classroom to support special-needs students. Find out about teaching strategies, and download tools to enhance your approaches.
- The Autism Helper. Read blogs from teachers about how they support their students. Read more about unit planning and responding to behavior. Download tools to help you communicate with your nonverbal students.
- Free Technology for Teachers. This website was designed with all teachers in mind, and you may find tips and tricks you can apply to your neurotypical students. Use the search function of the site to tap into resources made just for autism.
- National Autism Resources. Dig into tools for sensory integration, social skill improvement, and academic intervention. Many solutions offered here come with a fee, but you may find just the item your school district needs to help autistic students.
Organizations to Follow
Add a few websites to your favorites lists, and you’ll build on your knowledge throughout the year. There are plenty of organizations to choose from, but in this section, we’ll focus on those made just for teachers.
Start by connecting with:
- The National Association of Elementary School Principals. Visit the organization’s autism page to download resources made for teachers and administrators. The list changes regularly.
- Autism Classroom. Podcast fans might enjoy this website. Listen to experts discuss classroom management and coping strategies. If you prefer to read, dig into blogs written by your teacher peers.
- Autism Support Network. Connect with books and videos curated with teachers in mind. And use the site to find out more about the current state of autism research.
Autism Resources for Allies
Children with autism work closely with parents and teachers every day. As an ally, you may have a less frequent connection to a child with autism, but you can still have a huge impact on how the child feels, interacts, and grows. It’s important for you to learn all you can too.
The resources you need vary, depending on your connection to the child.
Parents set the tone for the family, but siblings play a critical role. A brother or sister can offer additional support when parents are busy or weary. Siblings can approach issues as peers, which could be an important source of feedback for a child with autism.
Peers should get the majority of information about autism from their parents. Additional resources may be helpful, including:
- The Organization for Autism Research. This organization makes age-specific tools for siblings. Download the guide, and consider an appointment with a pediatrician or specialist if your child has follow-up questions.
- Autism Speaks. Download a guide to autism written for siblings. Children can also read blogs on the website written by families and people with autism.
- The Sibling Support Project. Read blogs and educational resources written with siblings in mind. Sign up your child to participate in an in-person workshop, or encourage your child to participate in an online support group for siblings.
- Siblings of Autism. Connect with this organization to find out more about why respite is important. Learn more about scholarship opportunities too.
Parents of children with autism are encouraged to step away from their responsibilities for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. As a grandparent, you can make respite opportunities a reality, but you'll need to learn more about the disorder and how it works.
Start your research with:
- A Grandparent's Guide to Autism. Download this free resource from Autism Speaks, written with grandparents in mind.
- The Asperger/Autism Network. Sign up for an online support group, and learn more from peers who are also helping with an autistic grandchild. Sessions meet biweekly via Zoom.
- Autism Grandparent's Support Group. Connect with peers via Facebook to share stories, support, and education.
- The Grandparent Autism Support Group. Bookmark this website and read up on autism every day. Attend autism-specific events or get connected with peers who can help.
Anyone Can Be an Ally
People with autism benefit from strong, robust communities. Anyone can join. If you'd like to help but don't fit into any of the categories we've mentioned, connect with the Asperger/Autism Network and join a support group that seems right for you.
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A Parent's Guide to Research. Organization for Autism Research.
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Autism Moms Support Group. Facebook.
Autism Parents May Be at Risk for PTSD. (March 2020). Disability Scoop.
Who Joins Support Groups Among Parents of Children With Autism? (March 2007). Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice.
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