A variety of support and information groups exist to help families that are living with autism. Physicians, psychiatrists, educators, and parents who join these groups describe the tremendous benefits of belonging to an organization that advances the cause of autism research, as well as providing a support group for families, friends, and teachers of autistic children.
Founded in 1965 by Dr. Bernard Rimland, the Autism Society of America is the premier national autistic support/advocacy group in the United States. It is the oldest and largest "grassroots" organization in the autistic community. The Autism Society of America is dedicated to increasing public awareness of autism and the issues faced by families living with autism; the society's mission is to provide information, education, support, and advocacy for autistic programs and services.
The National Autism Association is an American support group designed to educate and empower families living with autism. They work to educate society about autism, its heredity factors, and environmental factors. Those involved in the autistic community are encouraged to assist their loved ones reach their full potential and raise money for autism research.
The National Autistic Society is an organization in the United Kingdom that works with individuals and government bodies to promote the rights and interests of individuals diagnosed with autism, as well raising the awareness of those living with and affected by autistic individuals. The Society provides local advice and support for families affected by autism; care and education for children and adults with autism; employment training for adults with Asperger's syndrome; training for parents and professionals; reliable information and publications, and routinely lobbies and campaigns for the funding of autistic programs and research.
In Canada, the Autism Canada Foundation is the main autism advocacy group. Their goal is to "engage, educate, empower, and unite people to find a cure for autism." The Autism Canada Foundation supports research that addresses the cause of autism, promotes public and government awareness of early diagnoses and effective treatment options, and provides caregivers with a wealth of objective information on treatments, therapy, and educational rights and opportunities.
Online support groups are a wealth of knowledge and experience. Knowing everything about autism is the first step in ensuring that your child has the most advantages possible. In addition, mental health and medical experts strongly recommend that families and caregivers of autistic children attend local support groups. Some people may find the idea wishy-washy or "corny", but the resources available to members of support groups are amazing. Parents and caregivers can share ideas and strategies for communicating with their autistic children and receive emotional support from someone who understands the process and is living through it as well. Often, people from your autism or Asperger's syndrome support group are among the only people who understand what it is like living with these children, and will never be "sick" of hearing you talk about your fears and triumphs. There is no substitute for experience, and the advice given and friendships made at support groups is often invaluable.