There’s an old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” There’s a lot of truth in that old saying, but for parents of children with autism, finding that village is often difficult.
Many parents become familiar with the unkind comments of strangers about a child’s behaviors or meltdowns, and negative social reactions only increase stress for parents. Sometimes the stigma surrounding autism results in social isolation. Invitations may stop coming. Families may begin isolating themselves to avoid uncomfortable situations that may occur at social events.
One study even found that parents who didn’t have good support systems in place experienced more stress. Yet autism moms who had a village on their side experienced significantly less stress. Unfortunately, this study also found that sometimes friends and family members became distant after a child was diagnosed with autism, leaving the parents without the support they needed.
So, where can parents look to find their support system – that village – to help them cope as a caregiver for a child with autism?
Connect with Autism Speaks
Support is available, even if you don’t have friends or family members by your side. Consider getting started by reaching out to AutismSpeaks.org. Not only do they offer excellent information for parents, but you can also sign up for local events through their website. This gives you a chance to talk to other families – you’ll be able to start finding your tribe. You’ll be surprised at how powerful and supportive this community can be. Other disability associations that may have local meetings and events include the Autism Society, the National Autism Association, and the Autism Support Network.
Seek Support at Your Child’s School
Researchers have found that many parents of children with autism dealing with a feeling of extreme isolation. One place to look for additional support is at your child’s school. Some schools may have special supports in place for the parents of children involved in special education programs. When you drop off or pick up your child at school, it may be a great time to speak to the parents of children in your child’s classroom. Sometimes that common ground is a great foundation for a solid friendship that can reduce feelings of isolation.
Reach Out to Your Place of Worship
Many parents have been frustrated with a lack of understanding for children with special needs like autism at their places of worship. However, that’s beginning to change. Some places of worship offer special programs for children with autism and other special needs. Others offer respite programs that give parents a break, so they can seek out support. Contact your preferred place of worship to find out what programs and supports may be available.
Join Online Chat Groups and Support Groups
Sometimes, getting out of the house to go looking for your village can be a challenge. That’s where online chat groups and support groups can be so helpful to parents caring for children with autism. MyAutismTeam is a social network designed for the parents of children with autism. Facebook offers many different support groups for the parents of children with autism and other special needs, as well.
Sometimes it feels a little harder to try to find your village as you parent a child with autism. But it’s not impossible. You’re not alone. With just a little effort on your part, whether it’s attending a local event or simply signing up for an online chat group, you can build a support system – a tribe – to be there for you and your child.