Autism awareness: Finding family and community support

Autism affects people differently, but support is important for all

Autism awareness: Finding family and community support

Autism is a spectrum condition, so some autistic people need more support than others. Having one autistic family member can affect the entire family.

Autism is a complex lifelong disability related to the development of the brain.

Symptoms may be detected in early childhood, but autism is often not diagnosed until much later. The main symptoms of autism are:

  • Difficulties in social communication and social interaction
  • Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities

People who are autistic often also experience sensory difficulties, such as increased or decreased sensitivity to light, sound, color, smell, taste or touch.

Specialized care: Children’s developmental health at Sanford Health

How common is autism?

One in 36 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder. Worldwide, about 1 in 100 people are autistic.

Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. It is diagnosed more than four times more often among boys than among girls.

While mild cases make up the majority of autism diagnoses, “profound” autism affects about 27% of American children with the developmental disability, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. The CDC broke down that definition statistically for the first time in 2023.

Children who are profoundly autistic are nonverbal, minimally verbal or have an IQ of less than 50, according to the report in the journal Public Health Reports.

The importance of support

Parents of an autistic child must have a good support system in place. This will help your child cope with the unique aspects of their disability. It will also help you learn how to manage your feelings when faced with the challenges of raising a child who is autistic.

Support for your child

Part of this support will come from the health care team that is treating your child and educating you as a parent.

Your child’s primary care provider may recommend interventions such as counseling and speech therapy to improve coping skills, communication and social skills. They also may recommend prescription medicine to treat symptoms of anxiety, hyperactivity and aggression that commonly come with autism. At the same time, these types of support can make well-being and quality of life better for both autistic people and their caregivers.

While some autistic people can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require lifelong care and support, the World Health Organization says.

Additionally, autistic people can face stigma for their differences. Along with individual autism care, the WHO promotes community-wide accommodations to make living, learning and working environments more accessible and inclusive.

Support for siblings

Pay special attention to the needs of other children in the family. Sometimes siblings’ needs get lost when so much attention is needed by the autistic child. Spend one-on-one time with your other children. Look for sibling support groups that can provide a safe place for them to talk and share their feelings and fears.

Autism support groups

Families with autistic children and people on the autism spectrum themselves benefit from a strong support network. You may find the following support groups helpful:

  • Autism Speaks. This organization provides support and advocacy for autistic people and their families.
  • Autistic Self Advocacy Network. This organization, run by and for autistic people, provides policy and legal advocacy, educational resources, and leadership training for autistic self-advocates.
  • GRASP (Global and Regional Autism Spectrum Partnership). This autistic-led group provides community outreach, online support, education, and advocacy for teens and adults on the autism spectrum. Membership is free.

Learn more

Posted In Behavioral Health, Children's, Family Medicine, Inclusion at Sanford, Parenting, Specialty Care