Did you know that April is National Autism Awareness Month? It's a great time to learn more about this disability and the families it affects.
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects roughly one in 88 children by the age of eight. Autism organizations work with families and loved ones of those affected by autism to act as a support system. There may not be a cure for autism, but there are an abundance of resourceful outlets available to anyone and everyone interested in learning more. Here are some groups that can provide information and support for special needs families and special needs caregivers.
Autism Research Institute
ARI, established in 1967, is a support network that hosts bi-annual conferences and offers necessary resources to families and communities struggling to adapt to the hardships of autism. They send out a monthly newsletter and create online forums to open up the lines of communication. The organization, whose motto is "Autism is Treatable," has donated millions to autism research over the last several years and doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. Their accomplishments in 2011 were outstanding and record-breaking.
Autism Science Foundation
As a new foundation that started in 2009, ASF's primary goal is to fund scientific research to ultimately discover the cause and possible treatments for autism. "We believe that outstanding research is the greatest gift we can offer our families. Every research dollar counts," ASF says in their mission statement. It's simple to donate online and you can even sell items on eBay to benefit ASF.
Autism Speaks raises not only money, but also awareness for autism spectrum disorders. They have a number of boards that work tirelessly to "find the missing pieces of the puzzle," including leadership, scientific and family services committees.
Autism Society of America
One of the oldest, well-respected autism organizations, Autism Society focuses on five core areas: advocacy, education, support, services and research. There are nearly 30 chapters nationwide. In addition to offering a number of programs, including camps and referral services, Autism Society also publishes a popular quarterly journal called "Autism Advocate."
Actress, comedian and model, Jenny McCarthy, serves as the president of Generation Rescue. McCarthy's son suffers from autism, so she understands the importance of a platform where families can share their struggles and offer advice or a shoulder to lean on. On the group's website, visitors can find helpful tools like action plans, recovery stories, recommended reading materials and mentors.
The Golden Fund for Autism
The Golden Fund is just what it sounds like, a fund. The organization, in conjunction with the Long Island Spectrum Center, aids those who aren't fortunate enough to have autism treatment and therapy covered under their insurance plan. Golden Fund lives by the mantra, "Each child unique. Helping them flourish. Helping them thrive."
Milestones Autism Organization
2012 marks Milestones' tenth anniversary. The idea behind the organization is to work with children through adulthood, setting life-long,achievablegoals that guide them during their battle with autism. Its mission is toprovide access, education, training and collaboration for the autism community.
National Autism Association
The NAA is a decade-old organization run by parents that provides beneficial programs, funding, assistance and extended knowledge. Their programs include: Helping Hand Program, Big Red Safety Box, and Progress Research. There are currently 15 NAA local chapters across the country. If you don't see a chapter close to home, NAA makes it accessible for anyone to get involved. Those interested can make a tax-deductibledonation, donate in someone's honor, shop online or plan an event.
National Autism Center
This organization is different than the others listed because it's an actual location for autism-related practices, research, programming and professional training. The center, run by the May Institute, is located in Randolph, Mass. There are a number of learning centers for children, parents, practitioners and caregivers.
Organization for Autism Research
The OAR is all about answering questions solving challenges of day-to-day problems that hinder those with autism. Their mission is to, "apply research to the challenges of autism." Their highly-trained scientific council is comprised of 17 autism and medical professionals. If you are a student who wishes to get involved, OAR offers semester-long internships.
Exhaust all of the resources available to advocate for autism -- there is ongoing hope for a breakthrough in research. Stand together with those whose support the same cause.
Kelly Johnston is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. Her work can be found at here.