April is National Autism Awareness Month, a time of year that provides a wealth of information for those of us with loved-ones who live on the autistic spectrum. If you love someone with autism, than you have an idea of the daily challenges they face. While some families are politically active and working to create fulfilling lives for those they love, there are also those who simply don’t know where to begin to find help. Autism is interesting because the symptoms vary in each person, so finding a correct diagnosis, effective treatment and support services can be overwhelming. Below are some resources to help you sort through the services and supports available in your community.
A good place to begin searching for information is the Autism Society of America website. The organization provides information on everything from early diagnosis to future planning for those living with autism. They’ve also created a resource database of national services by state. The Centers for Disease Control also has a comprehensive web page on autism.
Once you research the state resources, you can look for help in your community. The Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities offers information on community assistance and supports to help promote the independence and productivity of those on the spectrum. This could include home-based support programs for smaller children, work readiness assistance or housing for teens and young adults.
Finally, special needs groups such as Easter Seals also provide services for those on the spectrum. The Department of Education can direct you to the nearest special education or exceptional children’s programs and advocates in your area. Advocates and special needs attorneys can help with legal, political and personal challenges.
Family support groups can provide the personal touch often needed for encouragement and there are a number of televised specials and films that focus on autism during the month of April, such as the documentary Autism: Coming of Age. The local library is also a good place to find support. Some libraries may offer special needs programming or have information on community-based resources. You might also check magazines, newspapers and social media for announcements about conferences, expos and other events that focus on autism.
Having a loved-one who is differently-abled often requires more time, energy and resources than one person can give. Actively seeking support can help you find the programs and resources that will work best for you and your loved-one.