Understanding Autism: Information, Resources and Support

By Jocelyn Voo
Ladies’ Home Journal online

With 1.5 million Americans already affected, autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States at 10 to 17 percent each year. Find out more about the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and where to get help.

Autism Information

The Department of Human and Health Services’ Autism Information Center provides an in-depth look at autism and autism spectrum disorders.

The Center for the Study of Autism provides a clear overview of the disability, as well as a breakdown of subgroups and related disorders. Dozens of research papers written by doctors are also available for viewing, covering practical applications like the effects of medication, the best jobs for people suffering from autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, and teaching tips for people with autism.

A nonprofit organization founded in 1967, the Autism Research Institute is dedicated to conducting research on the causes of autism and the methods of preventing, diagnosing, and treating autism.

Exploring Autism provides a history of the disability, the intersection between genetics and autism, and how the environment affects autistic people. EA also offers a half dozen first-person accounts of people affected by autism — parents of autistic children and autistic individuals themselves.

Autism Support

Founded in 1965 by a handful of parents, the Autism Society of America has grown into one of the leading sources of information on the disability. ASA is the oldest and largest grassroots organization, with more than 120,000 members and nearly 200 chapters nationwide. ASA provides detailed information on autism, and offers a resource directory to find a support group near you.

Autism Education Network is a comprehensive virtual resource center, offering expert opinions, downloadable PDFs, and free e-mail updates on important issues. AEN also has a Parent Directory in which parents of autistic children can locate other local families for support.

In addition to providing background information on the disorder, Autism Today has an interactive forum to share information and ask questions, and an expert panel of over 75 coaches specializing in clinical psychology, social skills, and learning disabilities, among other things.

Talk Autism is a virtual community in which one can reach out for informational or emotional support. Local resources can be found with an interactive resource directory, and a message board allows you to communicate with autism professionals or other autism-affected individuals.

The National Autism Association runs a Helping Hand Program, which provides single parents with financial assistance for treatments and services for their autistic child. The NAA also runs the All Access Computer Project, which is dedicated to providing families of autistic children with temporary Internet access so they can make use of the innumerable autism resources available online.

Autism Activism

Created by a group of parents of autistic children, Cure Autism Now is a group of concerned parents, clinicians, and scientists dedicated to raising funds to accelerate the output of essential research. CAN puts on several nationwide fundraising efforts, including the 5K walk-a-thon Walk Now (www.walknow.org) and bike-a-thon Ride Now (www.canridenow.org).

Joining forces with forces with the National Alliance for Autism Research in 2005, Autism Speaks is dedicated to funding autism research and raising public awareness about the effects of the disability. NAAR and Autism Speaks also sponsors nationwide events to raise money for research, including a “Walk for Autism Research” in more than 50 cities nationwide.


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