Autism is a lifelong condition – a serious developmental disability that affects how persons interact with and communicate with others. For parents whose children have been diagnosed with autism, helping and supporting your child requires extra effort. However, it would be burdensome and unnecessary to cope with it singularly, especially when there is help available. Parents of autistic children can look for help through support groups, respite care and counselling. In addition, several countries have government services for children with autism.
When dealing with an autistic child, a parent is not alone. In the United States, 0.25% – 0.5% of the population is thought to be affected by autism – according to S.M. Edelson of the Center for the Study of Autism. The likelihood of meeting other families who are dealing with the disorder is good. This gives parents the ability to share coping strategies, thoughts and feelings about their situation.
Support groups can improve the emotional well-being of parents, and this would help the in other areas of life as well. In any countries, there are societies for autism. In the United States, it is the Autism Society of America (ASA). Such societies have information on established support groups near you and information on alternative forms of support as well. The ASA has a local chapter in every state.
Dealing with autism is emotionally and mentally draining. Respite care allows parents and caregivers of autistic children to take a break. This allows parents to recharge their batteries for minutes, hours, days or weeks. Respite care is necessary because the autistic child is unlikely to be the centre of the parent’s universe. Often, there is a spouse involved, or other offspring to tend to. Competent sitters and family members are first options. However, additional help can be sourced from Family Services, relevant state agencies of the National Respite Network (USA).
Parents can also benefit from individual, marital or family counselling. Autism affects the child, but also those around it. Counselling helps to maintain psychological well-being for the individual, but also ensures that the integrity of relationships is preserved.
While the value of non-profit organisations is priceless, the government and its agencies provide special services for autistic children. These include services that are free or subsidized. Such services can be split into Early Intervention Services and Special Education Services (for toddlers and up).
The following websites are very useful in the search for help with autistic children:
Autism Society of America, Autism Speaks, State Agencies, AutismHelpGuide