Parenting, teaching, or even just getting to know someone with autism can be a challenge. Locating reliable and actionable information about autism on the internet can be even more challenging. Just typing “autism” into a search engine will return tens of millions of results. Even if you knew where to start, how do you know which information is useful, and which is just nonsense?
Some resources are far more useful than others. Here’s a guide to help you find the most reliable online information about autism:
Full of information that applies the best findings from scientific research and advocacy groups, autismspeaks.org offers information and resources relevant to each of the 50 states in the US. Along with a list of resources for parents, educators, and caregivers, there are also several apps listed which may be useful, including those that build social and communication skills through gameplay.
Autism Research Institute
With a focus on research to determine what causes autism, the Autism Research Institute assists in the development of treatments for those currently living with autism. Their main concern is creating treatment regimens that are both effective and safe.
Autism Highway got its start through a parent’s search for information to help her son after his diagnosis. The website offers fun and informative activities, and its easy navigation allows users to quickly locate events related to autism awareness and specialists in autism-related treatments. There are also several games on the site geared toward children with autism.
Disability Scoop sends the latest developmental disability-related news right to your inbox. It’s a well-respected resource whose experts are often cited by major online news outlets like People Magazine and USA Today.
For parents who are curious about different teaching methods for children with autism, AutismWeb has a treasure trove of parental insights about several of them. There’s also a forum for parents who want to share their experiences and offer encouragement and advice to other parents in similar circumstances, as well as provide updates about the progress their children are experiencing. The forum even provides an area for sharing recipes that have been popular with picky eaters.
Asperger Syndrome & High Functioning Autism Association (AHA)
Although generally relevant to New York, the Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association provides good resources for those who are higher functioning. There are New York-specific lists of day camps and summer programs, along with some pointers on questions to ask when making a choice about which camp or program would be best for your child that may be useful regardless of your state of residence.
Geared toward helping children with autism, their family members, and the professionals that assist them, autism-society.org offers a wide range of helpful resources. The site is also an excellent resource for finding the most current news and press releases relate to autism.
Making the most of every available opportunity is essential for families dealing with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This is especially true when it comes to getting the most out of educational opportunities.
Here are some good resources for families who are seeking educational opportunities for family members with autism.
While these are excellent resources, it’s important to do your own research to find the ones that will work best for your particular needs. Sarah Dooley Center does not specifically endorse these options; the programs listed here are for your own edification and convenience.
Autism Speaks (As mentioned above)
Autism Speaks works hard to help promote solutions for those with autism, no matter their placement on the spectrum or their stage of life. They help provide advocacy and support programs that improve the understanding of autism spectrum disorders, as well as facilitate acceptance of those dealing with autism.
Autism Speaks offers information and links for a wide array of services and resources specifically for education in Virginia, including:
- Post-secondary education for adults over 22 years of age.
- After-school programs for children between the ages of 5 and 22.
- Preschool options for young children.
- Music and equine therapies, occupational therapy, and other therapeutic options.
Organization for Autism Research (OAR)
OAR understands how important educational opportunities are for children and adults with autism. Good educational programs can help build necessary life and social skills and help impart a greater ability to gain independence; they also foster an improved sense of self-worth and accomplishment.
OAR offers educational resources for parents, teachers, and students, including:
- Peer education tools for teachers and family members. These programs can be helpful whether in a home or classroom setting to help foster understanding and acceptance of peers or family members with autism.
- Guidebooks for helping families, teachers, and students navigate difficult terrain like safety, the special education system, and making the transition to adulthood.
- Professional development tools like videos and kits for understanding ASD and learning how to handle students living with autism.
OAR was created by a group of parents and grandparents of children with autism. With a laser focus on science-based information, building stronger communities through effective partnerships, and creating a world of improved opportunities, OAR promotes scientific understanding of ASD and strives to create a stable base of support for families dealing with autism.
Getting its start in 1996 with a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Do2Learn offers a plethora of free learning tools to help children and adults with autism gain social skills, learn to regulate their behavior, and communicate more effectively. They’ve partnered with creative, talented teachers from all over the globe to develop fun, effective learning tools for children and adults all along the autism spectrum. Do2Learn offers:
Academic learning tools for subjects like math, language, and the development of fine motor skills.
Social skills tools for developing better social behavior, communication skills, and better recognition of emotions.
Picture cards for improving daily living skills, understanding visual scheduling, and social and behavioral skills.
Do2Learn is focused on helping parents, teachers, and students get the most out of every educational interaction in a way that’s fun and effective, without being overwhelming.
Work with Trusted Education Resources
Finding the best educational resources for your family member may take some time and research, but it will certainly pay off in the long run. Autism presents a range of opportunities for unique educational interactions, and there are lots of excellent resources to help you find what works for you and your family.
The teachers and staff at the Sarah Dooley Center believe the focus should always be on making sure students and their families are learning in the way that works best for them.
Good education requires more than just new ways to teach necessary skills; it means understanding that every child is different and will require innovative approaches to help them reach their potential.
It can seem like you’re navigating a minefield when it comes to ensuring that a family member with autism has the skills they need to get through life after school.
Employment training services are important tools in the mission to create a skillset that allows gainful employment and an independent lifestyle.
Sarah Dooley School understands the challenges facing students with autism in finding employment after graduation, and provides career and transition services to assist in building the skills that can foster a better, more productive life.
Forging a Career Path
It’s hard to build a career in the modern world, and even more so if you struggle with the challenges of autism. Special provisions can be made in many jobs that allow those with autism to perform to the best of their ability, but some jobs offer challenges that are nearly insurmountable for those on the autism spectrum.
Some problems that those with autism might face in an unsuitable workplace include:
- Excessive stimulation and sensory overload
- Lack of engagement and bonding with fellow employees due to improper or absent emotional interaction
- Language and speech issues that prohibit good communication
- Inability to interact in social situations and alienation from workmates
- Too much person-to-person interaction, including an inability to deal with crowds
- Lack of familiarity and repetition, leading to disturbances in routine activities
- Poor outcomes of decreased self-confidence and reduced motivation to work
Without the proper skills and training, finding work can be nearly impossible for those on the spectrum. In fact, only just over half of young people with autism spectrum disorders actually work outside the home within the first eight years following the completion of secondary education.
Of those, one in five is likely earning minimum wage, and perhaps less. Addressing these issues is of utmost importance for helping those with autism make the most of their working lives.
It’s especially important to find jobs that play to the strengths of those struggling with autism.
Training, skill building, and family support are all big factors in how well someone affected by autism handles a job. Age can also be a factor, as older people with autism may have learned coping skills that take time and patience to perfect.
Household income can also play a part in how well someone with autism navigates the world around them, as it may assist in having better access to career training and preparatory tools.
CATS: Career and Transition Services
The CATS (Career and Transition Services) program at Sarah Dooley is designed specifically to help youths and young adults in acquiring necessary skills to become gainfully employed, regardless of their starting point or current skill set.
Help is available for those living with autism spectrum disorders, including emotional challenges, academic problems, behavioral issues, or developmental disabilities in the moderate to severe range.
The goal of Sarah Dooley’s CATS program is to assist each participant in envisioning and attaining a future that’s both stimulating and productive.
Staff members in the CATS program at Sarah Dooley assess each participant upon entry to the program. They then create a personalized plan of action for each. Those who go through the program are offered tools to improve problem solving skills, relationship-building and networking, and communication.
The program is also focused on providing the knowledge that participants need to make the most of opportunities, both in their careers and their lives.
Classroom instruction is carefully paired with hands-on training opportunities in work centers based on the campus. Participants can choose from several avenues, including:
- Recycling programs
- Preparation for student snacks
- Community gardening
- Shredding programs for on-campus paperwork
Local businesses are also part of the CATS program at Sarah Dooley, helping provide participants with experience working in real-world situations.
With this sort of assistance, it’s possible for those with autism to learn the skills necessary to get through life as independently as possible.
Creating a Career Path
There are a number of jobs that can be very good for those living with autism. Some jobs have demands that work well with the autistic mind, making the most of increased attention to detail and good long-term memory skills.
These types of jobs can be extremely stimulating and enjoyable, but they may not always be available in the community.
One way to combat this lack of opportunities is to actually create a suitable opportunity for a family member or friend with autism.
Even if working out in the public sphere isn’t feasible, there are still plenty of ways to help those with autism find their balance between life, work and disability.
Some types of jobs that can be very good for those with autism include:
- Computer programming (has the added benefit of being a very mobile job; programming can be done anywhere, even from home)
- Photography (even being designated as the “family photographer” can help improve self-confidence and inspire creativity)
- Graphic design (artistic capabilities and tendencies should always be fostered, if possible)
There are several ways to help someone on the autism spectrum find their best fit. Even for those on the nonverbal part of the spectrum, there are many jobs that can be rewarding and good for building self-confidence.
When helping someone with autism find their career path, it’s often a long period of trial and error.
It’s about finding the right balance of work and life, not just making those on the spectrum fit into predefined roles. The important thing is to not give up, and don’t let them give up, either.
Finding the Right Path
Along with the CATS program at Sarah Dooley, a strong family support system can help those with autism find their strengths and capitalize on them. It’s not just about having a job, but having one that’s fulfilling and as stress-free as possible.
The road to a fulfilling career isn’t an easy path for anyone, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible task for those living with the challenge of ASD.
Relationships can be tricky for those with autism spectrum disorders. They can be even trickier for family members and friends who have someone with autism in their lives.
From sibling relationships to romantic partnerships and beyond, it’s not always easy to figure out where you stand, how to cope, or what the best course of action is in any given relationship.
Fortunately, there are resources to help you improve the relationships around you, whether you’re dealing with ASD or it’s someone in your family or network of friends.
Please bear in mind that these resources are offered for your edification and convenience. The inclusion of any source listed herein does not indicate an endorsement of the materials by the Sarah Dooley School.
Sibling Relationships and Autism Spectrum Disorders
Sibling relationships can be very difficult to cultivate and maintain, but there are a wide variety of resources to help you better understand the issues and foster closeness between siblings of differing abilities.
The Autism Society has an area of their website dedicated to this topic, as does AutismNow.Org. There’s also a lot of helpful information from scholarly resources like Indiana University Bloomington, as well as a variety of studies, articles, books, and more on this subject.
Building a Strong Family Support System
Resources are available to help you better manage family dynamics and get the support your family needs to stay strong and united in the face of challenges that may be presented by autism.
More important than nearly any other factor in the development of a child with autism, a strong family support system can improve long-term outcomes and set the child on the road to living successfully and as independently as possible.
The following organizations offer services to assist you and your family in creating a cohesive, supportive family unit:
- The Autism Society
- The Arc
- The Sibling Support Project
- Sibling Leadership Network
- Parent Technical Assistance Centers
This is not a comprehensive list of available services or organizations, but the links above will offer a good starting point for finding the information you need to get the services to support your family as well as possible.
Forming lasting friendships can be difficult for people with autism. Children dealing with autism can feel isolated and set apart from their peers, increasing feelings of inadequacy and loneliness.
However, there are several helpful resources for confronting this issue and helping children with autism, teens, and adults find good ways to cultivate lasting friends.
AutismNow.Org offers some good advice, and more can be found through this handout from the National Autism Conference, as well as various articles from scholarly institutions. There are also books to help promote good friendship skills and skills outreach groups.
Building Romantic Relationships and Looking to the Future
The explosion of new diagnoses of ASD means that it’s becoming more important than ever to understand how autism can affect the formation of romantic partnerships.
Romance can be a difficult subject, no matter your abilities. For those with autism, it can be even more fraught with pitfalls, letdowns, and heartache.
Fortunately, there are some very helpful resources to give those suffering from autism a better grasp of the tools needed to build and maintain romantic partnerships:
- Autism Speaks offers articles and programs to help autistic individuals find their footing in the world of romance. The Arc also has a section of their site dedicated to romantic relationships and dating issues, and another on marriage.
- Various articles and blogs on the subject are available from publications like The Richmond Times, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Psychology Today.
- Outreach and social skill building programs can also be helpful when tackling the issue of romantic relationships for those with autism. Commonwealth Autism has a list of helpful resources and outreach programs, and Autism Speaks offers a community-based skills assessment to help determine the best resources to fit your specific needs.
- There are also documentaries associated with this subject, one of which is Autism in Love, which follows four adults with autism as they try to understand, manage, and pursue meaningful romantic partnerships. This feature-length film is an excellent resource for understanding more about how autism can affect romantic relationships.
Romantic relationships don’t have to be impossible for those facing the challenges of autism. These and many other resources are intended to provide the proper tools for building real, lasting romantic relationships.
Tackling the Topic of Sexuality
The topic of sex and sexuality can be intimidating for those who are living with autism and those who feel responsible for providing the information.
There are a range of resources to help, though. These include books, websites, and articles. You can find several of these resources at AutismNow.Org.
Providing a Framework for Strong Relationship Skills
Autism can make building a strong and functional relationship nearly impossible, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It takes understanding, patience, and perseverance, but autistic individuals can and do experience meaningful romantic partnerships, lasting friendships, and close familial relationships. Giving them the tools to take these steps is an essential part of giving them the best possible outcomes and better long-term expectations.
Take Advantage of the Wealth of Information
These resources will help you create an environment where those with autism can thrive. To learn more about how to live with autism or for information on supporting someone with autism, contact us at the Sarah Dooley Center for Autism.