As a common developmental disorder impacting as many as 1 in every 54 children, autism presents various challenges to parents and families.
There are many organizations that support people who are affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Charities, nonprofits, support groups, and governmental organizations help to drive research, provide advocacy, and offer resources to families and individuals impacted by autism.
These eight autism organizations offer vital information and assistance to the autism community:
1. Autism Speaks
A nonprofit organization founded in 2005, Autism Speaks provides support to individuals with autism and their families. With their five main goals, Autism Speaks strives to:
- Increase acceptance and understanding of individuals with autism across the globe.
- Provide access to reliable autism information and services for all stages of life.
- Increase early interventions and early childhood autism screenings.
- Catalyze breakthroughs in autism research.
- Improve the transition for autistic children into adulthood.
The Autism Speaks website offers a wealth of information and resources for individuals with autism and their families, including pertinent news, research, ways to get involved, and details on local chapters that support communities directly.
The Autism Speaks main offices are located in New York and New Jersey, but there are field offices and chapters all across the United States. Contact information can be found here.
2. National Autism Association (NAA)
The National Autism Association supports families and autistic individuals through six main areas of focus that include:
- Direct tools
- Thoughtful awareness
NAA runs several programs to support these areas of focus.
- Big Red Safety Box: This program provides tools to help families prevent wandering incidents.
- Big Red Safety Toolkit: This is a free resource shipped to teachers, school administrators, and aides to minimize dangerous wandering.
- Give a Voice: This program provides communication devices to autistic individuals who are minimally verbal or nonverbal.
- Autism ATRIUM: This program offers free education and training, including toolkits, webinars, and educational materials.
You can support NAA through several means, including Amazon SMILE.
Contact information for NAA:
National Autism Association
One Park Avenue, Suite 1
Portsmouth, RI 02871
NAA also has local chapters that connect families with support groups for autism.
3. Autism Society of America (ASA)
The Autism Society has been advocating for autistic individuals and supporting families for more than 50 years. Their national headquarters is in Bethesda, Maryland.
The Autism Society provides one of the most reliable and well-trafficked websites for autism news, information, and resources. Spearheading the first federal law that was autism-specific, the 2006 Combatting Autism Act, Autism Speaks advocates for people with autism and provides education for the public on the disorder.
The Autism Society hosts the biggest and most comprehensive annual national conference on autism. They boast a large database of online resources through the Autism Source as well as a national contact center (the Autism Society National Helpline: 1-800-3-Autism) that offers service referrals and information.
The organization has local affiliates throughout the entire United States that can provide families with details on community resources and services.
4. Autism Research Institute (ARI)
The Autism Research Institute is a nonprofit organization that has operated without funding from special interest groups since 1967. ARI strives to pioneer research driving the idea that autism is treatable.
Through cooperative efforts with other organizations around the globe, ARI advocates for people with autism and provides outreach and autism education.
An entirely online platform, ARI offers education and support for:
- Individuals diagnosed with autism.
- Parents and caregivers.
- Clinicians and therapists.
Contact information for the Autism Research Institute can be found here.
5. Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)
Founded in New York City, the Simons Foundation for Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) funds and performs scientific research to support the treatment, diagnosis, and understanding of autism. SFARI seeks to advance the science behind autism research by providing grants, tools, and opportunities to scientists and researchers as well as education and resources to families and individuals directly impacted by autism.
A nonprofit organization, SFARI provides numerous scientific resources to autism researchers. SFARI also publishes the online magazine Spectrum, featuring the latest news on autism and autism research.
Contact information for SFARI:
160 Fifth Ave., 7th floor
New York, New York 10010
6. Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a grassroots disability organization that is run by and for people of the autistic community. ASAN advocates for equality and empowers autistic people to take control of their futures. The nonprofit provides a platform for the voices of the autistic community to be heard.
- Advocates for public policy.
- Provides leadership for the autistic community to become self-advocates.
- Develops autistic cultural activities.
- Runs projects to provide education on advocacy, disability rights, and cultural development.
The ASAN website offers policy briefs, publications, and a multitude of resources for autistic individuals and their families. Individuals can become members, donate, and find other opportunities to get involved in the autistic community.
ASAN has a national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Contact information can be found here.
7. Association for Science in Autistic Treatment (ASAT)
The Association for Science in Autistic Treatment provides education and resources related to science-based treatments for autism. The organization advocates for the use of the scientific method and disseminates factual information to parents and the general public.
Through a newsletter, social media presence, and website, ASAT publishes details on evidence-based autism treatment methods. The group helps educators, caregivers, and parents learn how to differentiate the science from the myths about autism. Their headquarters is in Hoboken, New Jersey.
- A comprehensive website with information and resources for parents and educators, medical professionals, and the media.
- A monthly published newsletter.
- An externship program designed to encourage and promote science in autism treatment.
- A Media Watch initiative that verifies the latest autism news to separate accurate and inaccurate information.
- Conferences sponsored and cosponsored by the organization, which provide current scientific autism treatment information.
You can get involved with ASAT by volunteering, donating to their efforts, or fundraising for the organization. You can also participate in externships and their public awareness campaigns.
Contact information for ASAT can be found here.
8. Autism Key
Autism Key is a news-focused online resource, founded by parents of children with autism to offer information and support for parents of children diagnosed with autism.
The Autism Key website hosts discussion boards, news, and multimedia information from a variety of viewpoints to offer support and education for the autism community.
If you’d like to contact Autism Key for more information or find out how you can get involved, complete their web-based form.
State, Local & Governmental Resources
In-person, local autism resources are provided by state, county, and city organizations. Local health departments and hospitals often host support groups for families dealing with autism and other special needs.
Family doctors, pediatricians, and mental health providers can be helpful resources to connect parents with local groups or organizations aimed at supporting the autistic community.
Organizations to Avoid
There are a lot of organizations related to autism, and some of them do not provide accurate or fact-based information.
For example, several groups are based on the widespread falsehood that autism is somehow linked to vaccines. This myth has been repeatedly discredited by scientific research. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes that autism is a developmental disorder with no links to vaccines.
Despite this repeated debunking, some organizations still cling to this belief as well as other falsehoods regarding the causes of autism. Be wary of any autism organization promoting information that is not based on science.
Stay away from any organization or group that claims they can cure autism. There is no known cure for autism. While symptoms can be effectively treated and minimized, the disorder will always be present. The good news is that appropriate treatment — such as ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy — can help many people with autism to live full, independent lives.
Stick to organizations that are backed by scientific research and respected by medical professionals — and the eight organizations above fit this description. These autism organizations are worth joining and supporting. They are doing vital work in the field, providing necessary information and assistance to autistic individuals and their families.
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- The Seekers: Why Parents Try Fringe Therapies for Autism. (September 2016). Spectrum.