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Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders and Support Groups

Tammi Reynolds, BA & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders (ABOARD)

The Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders is an organization created to help families who have members with autism. ABOARD provides information and resources to caretakers and it helps families who are waiting for diagnosis, educational support and therapeutic interventions. ABOARD is designed to help families of adult individuals with autism as well. With the spike in the number of cases of autism, many families are unable to get services in a timely manner.

ABOARD is located in Western Pennsylvania and its efforts are primarly focused on serving this region. The organization works to create awareness in the community by sending speakers to schools, private organizations and public organizations and through press releases. ABOARD provides information packages and it operates an information library for members. It also keeps a current list of agencies that provide services for individuals with autism.

The Advisory Board on Autism and Related Disorders has a structured network of support groups. Family members can have one-on-one support or they can be connected to one of the fifty-three support groups ABOARD oversees. The support groups are organized by diagnosis and age. Through this network of groups, parents can connect with other parents who have experience with autism.

Support Groups

Support groups are mutual self-help groups, run either by peers (other parents of autistic children), or by professionals working in the autism or PDD field. Families can find autism or PDD support groups in a number of ways: through ABOARD and similar organizations, through schools, agencies or doctors, and on the Internet. Groups are usually offered 'face-to-face', but more and more, they are organized and delivered through Internet based communities. The American Self-Help Clearinghouse, hosted by Mental Help Net, is an excellent online place to search for face-to-face self-help groups. (http://www.mentalhelp.net/selfhelp/selfhelp.php?idx=41&isindex2=autism).

Support groups are often designed to offer focused support for particular problems or demographics. For example, support groups for the siblings of people with autism are common. Such groups work to help siblings understand the disorder and to relate to their brothers or sisters with autism. They teach techniques for interacting with siblings, and they provide emotional support as well. There are also support groups for parents, autistic adults, and for specific PDD diagnoses, including Asperger's Syndrome, Rhett's Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorders in general. Many of these support groups can be found on the Internet. Families may choose to visit Internet support groups or they may choose to research local 'face-to-face' support groups over the Internet.