Parents of children with autism face unique challenges that only other parents of autistic children can understand.

There are many support groups for parents of children with autism. Offerings vary from state to state, but all across the country, parents and other caregivers can find support and understanding in these groups.

Understanding Autism

Autism spectrum disorder, typically called autism or ASD, is a developmental disorder.

Symptoms associated with this condition can impact a child’s ability to socialize with family and peers, communicate both verbally and nonverbally, and learn new things. People with autism often need patterns and routine. They may become obsessed with one or a few interests, struggle to understand symbolism or body language, and even struggle with motor skills.

Since autism is a spectrum disorder, some people with autism do not stand out from their neurotypical friends. Others are unable to speak and need consistent therapy to manage daily life.

The medical and scientific understanding of childhood brain development is getting better all the time. Many children receive a diagnosis of autism around 2 years old when their mental and behavioral development begins to change compared to neurotypical toddlers.

The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network estimates that 1 in 44 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum. Increased awareness of the diagnostic criteria for autism has led adolescents and adults to access services to maximize strengths and overcome barriers.

People with autism benefit from behavior therapy, especially science-based applied behavior analysis (ABA). Significant improvements can be made in therapy, encouraging independence in autistic children.

Parents of children with autism spend a lot of time thinking about what all this means for their child. They may worry about what the future holds and how the entire family will be impacted.

Neurodivergence can sometimes be difficult to understand. Finding a good support group for parents of children with autism can help.

Who Needs an Autism Support Group?

Support groups are vital for parents, caregivers, siblings, and other family or friends who are worried about the autistic people in their lives, who need support themselves, and who want to be a better resource for their loved ones.

Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and unwell are commonly reported by caregivers of people who have any condition, especially chronic conditions. Parents and guardians of children with autism often report feeling:

  • Angry
  • Anxious
  • Grief
  • Guilty
  • Sad

Meeting people who are going through the same issues that you are can help to ease your mental and emotional struggles. It can also help you to access resources that have helped others.

How do you find a support group to help you? We’ve outlined some suggestions below.

Ways to Find an Autism Support Group in Your City or State

There are several government agencies and nonprofits that provide information on autism support groups. Some of these organizations host support groups, and some can connect you to the right type of group for your needs.

Government Organizations

Here are a few government organizations you can contact to help you find information on autism support, which includes support groups:

  • Autism spectrum disorder information from the CDC: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps track of conditions that impact Americans, from diabetes and substance abuse to mental illness and developmental conditions like autism. Their information on autism provides a solid overview of this development disorder, so you can read more about your child’s condition.

    They also provide a page, Links to Other Websites, with extensive information on groups offering support, funding, and research information. The page includes listings of mutual support groups, both in person and online. 

  • Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Blog: This page provides a lot of information, personal stories and interviews, and approaches to support for parents and guardians of children with autism. Start here to understand that you are not alone. It can be a launching point for finding support through your child’s daycare or school.

  • Behavioral Health Services Locator:The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has an online search tool to help you find behavioral treatment for many conditions, including support groups for parents of children with autism.

Nonprofits & Community Organizations

Nonprofits and community organizations provide a lot of support for children and adults with autism, along with their families. These are some of the leading nonprofit groups offering support for families of autistic individuals:

  • Autism Speaks: This organization provides a range of information and services to help people with autism and their families, including an online support group. While many people prefer to meet in person, online support groups offer a level of anonymity, convenience, and diversity that an in-person meeting may not provide. You might be able to find more help for your specific situation or connect with families going through similar issues all over the world.

  • Center for Parent Information and Resources: This organization offers trainings throughout all 50 states, so parents of young children with specific disabilities, including autism, can get the help and support they need to provide a safe and supportive environment for their children. These trainings can help you meet likeminded people going through a similar experience as well.

  • YMCA: This charitable community organization offers safe spaces for a wide range of needs in various cities and counties across the United States. For example, in the Greater Charlotte area, you can find accessible activities for children with autism. You can search YMCA information based on where you live.

Connecting to Support Through ABA Therapy

Changes in insurance coverage requirements through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and several state laws mean that insurance providers must cover treatment for autism spectrum disorders. This includes evidence-based therapies like ABA therapy.

Parents of children with autism can benefit from working directly with an ABA therapist to learn the techniques of this type of treatment. This will help you to understand your child’s treatment plan better and find ways to support your child’s ongoing developmental and behavioral improvements at home, during normal family interactions.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that training parents in behavior therapy techniques reduces incidences of maladaptive behaviors. At Elemy, we offer ABA therapy that is based in positive reinforcement, and we work with parents and caregivers so they can reinforce the techniques used in sessions.

Ask your child’s care team about therapy and mutual support groups for yourself. Some therapy for families of autistic children may be covered by your health insurance. Support groups are typically free, but you can work with an individual or family counselor to find the right one for you, and your insurance will likely cover those family or individual therapy sessions.

Autism Support Groups in Specific States

Each state boasts a variety of support groups for parents of children with autism, and you can find support groups in your state by using the resources above.

Here are some options in the following states:

New York
Parent to Parent of New York State
Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Society
Autism Parent Support Group

UCSF Center for ASD & NDDs
Mothers of Children With Autism and Aspergers
People First of California

The Helping House
National Autism Association of North Texas
Bebo’s Angels Autism Support Group

Many sites gather autism support group listings for specific states. For example, the University of South Florida has a page dedicated to autism-related support groups in the state.

Search for autism-specific support groups in your state, and you’ll find a variety of resources available. You can also use the support group search feature on Psychology Today to find local groups.

Finding the Right Way to Support Yourself

Getting children the help they need from therapists will improve their lives significantly.
When a child with autism receives the right therapy, they will feel more comfortable. They have the tools they need to communicate, learn, and navigate social interactions, and this empowers them to live independent, balanced lives.

It is vital for young children to socialize with the adults in their lives, especially their parents or guardians. This means that parents must get support, through support groups, from other parents along with therapists or leaders who run the group. Finding ways to lessen the stress in your life will help you be there for your child, so you can encourage their growth and development.