When we talk about autism, we’re usually talking about the treatment and support that we can provide individuals with autism in the form of therapies, interventions, and educational opportunities. But parents and family members of a child with autism also need support. An autism diagnosis affects every member of the family, and will continue to influence family dynamics, priorities, finances, and relationships and throughout childhood and adolescence.
That’s where autism support groups come into the picture. Autism support groups provide the resources and network that family members need to find the best path forward when raising a child with autism.
Parenting and Autism
As a parent of a child with autism, it can sometimes feel like your experience as a parent and as a family is far removed from the experiences of your friends and neighbors. You may face challenges that the people closest to you are unable to counsel you on, or may feel like you don’t have anyone who understands what you’re going through.
Parents face a wide range of challenges when raising a child with autism, from dealing with maladaptive behaviors to getting your child to sleep through the night to calming them down from temper tantrums. The stress can place a strain on marriages, work, finances, and other personal relationships. Attending autism support groups can help you cope with the day-to-day stress and difficulties of parenting a child with autism.
Siblings and Autism
Likewise, siblings of children with autism will also face unique challenges that may differ from what their friends and peers experience at home. Odd or inappropriate behaviors, communication issues, and hard-to-understand rituals can make sibling relationships complex and rocky.
When you have a child with autism, your other children may sometimes find it hard to relate to their sibling or to understand their behavior. They may feel frustrated if you sometimes have to devote more time and energy to their sibling. Or they may feel helpless if they are unsure how to help out.
As parents, it’s your responsibility to help your children understand autism and how it shapes their sibling’s behavior, along with fostering healthy sibling relationships amongst your children that overcome the obstacles of ASD. However, your children may still need additional support that you can’t provide, such as peers who understand what they’re going through, or an outside adult they can talk to about frustrations they can’t or don’t want to share at home.
Why Autism Support Groups are Important
Autism support groups are a place where parents and siblings can find the resources they need to handle the challenges of autism. In autism support groups, family members can share their experiences, receive and offer advice, keep up to date with new information and research, learn coping skills, and even receive specialized training.
Having a strong support system around you is important not only for your own well-being, but for your child’s. When you take better care of yourself, you can be a better caregiver to your child and family. Therapists and healthcare professionals make up two important pieces of your autism support network, but autism support groups also play an essential role.
Minneapolis Autism Support Groups
Minnesota Autism Center
The Minnesota Autism Center (MAC) offers autism support groups for parents and families. MAC has multiple locations across the Minneapolis metro area in Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Eagan, Fridley and Woodbury. Learn more.
Autism Society of Minnesota
The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) offers a number of specialized support groups for family members, including groups for caregivers of children with autism, adult family members with autism, independent adults with autism, and more. All groups are free. Check out the full list.
The Minnesota branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers support groups for parents of children with autism that meet in a variety of locations around the Twin Cities, including Apple Valley, Prior Lake, South Minneapolis, and Minnetonka. Because NAMI provides resources and support for all mental illnesses, it’s an especially good resource if your child has a dual diagnosis. Find locations and details.
Along with being the largest provider of autism services in Minnesota, Fraser also offers services for individuals and families dealing with other mental health and developmental disabilities. Fraser hosts a regular schedule of workshops designed to teach families practical knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of autism. See workshop schedule.