I love this quote from Helen Keller: “Alone, we can do so little together we can do so much.” It really resonates with me because this is how I feel about the autism community as a big sis and professional. It’s really easy to feel alone with autism in your life, but I’ve found over time that a community you curate can help out in the long run. This post shares ways for you to discover and connect with a community of your choosing and creating.
Autism can feel like an isolating experience. Everyone is becoming more and more disengaged and isolated from their communities. On the other hand, connecting in your community can be incredibly helpful in a number of ways, including for your mental health. Plus, feelings of community are the best!
An obvious support, right? But accessing services is probably something you’ve been told since you received the diagnosis. Buuut it is true! No matter what age and what’s going on in your life, it may be helpful to see what types of support and services are out there they also would be helpful in guiding you to what’s out there in your local community.
Double-check what’s available in your community!
Some examples: early childhood services, early intervention, family support, sibling support, local clinics supporting autism and disabilities, park and recreation departments
If you’re in school or your child is in school, this is a great place to start with seeking out and connecting with your surrounding community.
Jumping off of a similar interest or proximity to others is always a great ground for a community. It’s true! It’s a social psychology concept. If the hours don’t work for you – check in with teachers about other families who would be interested in getting to know others.
Examples: School-related events to develop and connect with the school community, Go to classroom events, after-school events, extracurricular activities, sports and other teams.
I believe this one is always an important group to consider. Firstly, family is a definition constructed by you. Family may not be determined by blood or biologically, but in terms of who is important to you and who you can lean on when times are difficult. They are always a good “go to” to reach out to and connect. They’re the most central community to you.
Other families in your community are great to connect with too. Those who also have a child on the autism spectrum are more familiar with what your day-to-day life may be like.
Find fellowship in family support groups that
Can be local or online
Meet a need
Focus on a topic or age range
Can be any size
Provide a parallel group for children and siblings
Anyone is literally that anyone can be your community. One family I worked with found community in folks who worked at the stores and restaurants my client and I frequented the most. They would check in and briefly chat with us about how they’re doing. I know it made this family feel connected and safe. Think about the places you visit often and staff you consistently see. Strike up a quick conversation each you time see them and see what happens over time. You may have found your newest community.
Examples of places I’ve developed a sense of community that you can try out too: Library, gym, local swimming pool, grocery stores, department stores, toy stores (rip toys r us)
Natural supports is a term starting to get traction with researchers and therapists. Ultimately, natural supports is an umbrella term.
An umbrella-ella of all the types of people and communities I listed above. Service professionals, school staff (teachers, paraprofessionals, peers, other parents), families (yours and others), and anyone in your community.
Now onto you…
Who would you identify as a natural support?
Think of at least 3 people you would turn to if you needed help, someone to turn to and someone to celebrate milestones with.
Who are these 3 folks?