Being an autism parent can be a challenge when you don’t have a community of support and understanding. We are in a different phase of life than many of our friends who want to support us, but don’t truly understand the joys, tribulations, extreme victories and moments of defeat. It can be a lonely journey, and we sometimes miss out on the invitations to social gatherings and the opportunities to share and belong without judgement.
How do we find folks who walk this journey? Sometimes we stumble across other parents and caregivers, but we need a place to feel safe, a place to find our circle of parents, and a place to meet people who “get it.”
Five years ago, I reignited my local Support Group sponsored by the Autism Society of North Carolina. I had no idea when I held that first meeting, inviting families just like my own to come together, what an amazing transformation it would make, not just in my life, but in the lives of others in my community.
At our first gathering, we all had similar stories. Our kids were all on different ends of the spectrum, but we understood one another. We laughed, we cried, and we planned what we wanted to do to create our journey together as a united circle.
We began networking with local businesses and came up with sensory-friendly activities for our kids across the spectrum. We gathered, and they played. They started playing side-by-side, then over time we watched them form connections. We saw them gravitate closer to each other, communicating in whatever ways they could. Soon they were the guests at each other’s birthday parties, they began to make requests for events they desired, and they looked forward to our monthly gatherings.
“There is no judgement in our Support Group. There are no cliques.”
Meanwhile, as parents, we found the connections we had longed for. I will never forget one of our early events. A fellow mom and I had both had tough days with our children at occupational therapies. Both kids had been pushed out of their comfort zone and challenged. They had a hard time, and we had a hard time as a result. We knew that look of exhaustion and defeat, and we sat beside each other while the kids were engaged. We just held hands and took a deep sigh together. We didn’t say a word, but we released our emotions through our presence together. I left there feeling like I had the strength to continue with my night. In an odd sense, it revived me to just be able to sit together and be supported.
There is no judgement in our Support Group. There are no cliques. There are no stares when a child is having a difficult moment. It is a safe place in the best possible way.
If you’ve been hesitant to reach out to your local Support Group, stop hesitating. If you didn’t know they existed, THEY DO! You will find comfort there. You’ll find a space where you can ask other parents questions, hear ideas, connect, and fill your cup.
Our Support Group Leaders are trained by the Autism Society of North Carolina, and all activities can be found on the calendar. Once you click on the event, all the details will be provided, and if registration is needed, it will indicate that. You’re welcome to attend any event, whether you live in that county or not.
If you’re looking for your local support group, please visit the Support Groups page and enter your county. Many groups have a private Facebook group, which is a great resource to ask for suggestions for pediatricians, dentists, and other professionals. It’s a place to ask advice and opinions and feel 100% comfortable doing so.
If your county doesn’t currently have a Support Group Leader, and you’d like to discuss how rewarding that role is, please reach out to Marty Kellogg, Support Groups Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are several options, even for parents who are not seeking to “lead” a group but would like to help organize social activities and build connections. We are always looking to expand our reach and unite families in all 100 counties, and we are happy to provide guidance and support on forming a group.
Tags: asnc support groups, autism, autism acceptance, autism asperger parenting tips, Autism Society of North Carolina, autism support, autism support groups, Support Groups