The word "autism" – a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – stems from the Greek noun autos, which means "self." The CDC further states that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have problems with social communication and interaction, which is why autism can be defined as "a state of being oneself;" or, in other words, ‘a state of being alone’. This, however, doesn’t mean that if your child has been diagnosed with ASD, you have to go it alone.
And your child is certainly not alone. The latest data from the CDC shows that 1 in 44 children in the US is autistic. Upon receiving an ASD diagnosis, most parents leave the neurologist’s or developmental pediatrician’s office feeling overwhelmed and confused, while struggling to know where to begin to seek support. In an effort to build more understanding about the signs, challenges and realities of ASD, April has been designated as Autism Acceptance Month. And in Miami-Dade County, numerous programs and resources are available to guide and support parents and caretakers of children in the spectrum, including:
- The University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities offers free services and programs for those in the spectrum and related disabilities. Services include family and professional training, support groups, social groups for teens and adults, recreational camps and activities, and public education and awareness programs, among others. UM-NSU CARD currently serves about 15,000 families in Miami-Dade, Monroe and Broward counties. Visit www.card.miami.edu for more information.
- Positive Parenting Programs, funded by The Children’s Trust, equips parents and caregivers with the knowledge they need to help prevent behavioral, emotional and developmental problems in their children ages 2-12. Classes are offered in English and Spanish in various locations throughout Miami-Dade County.
- Partially funded by The Children’s Trust, Parent to Parent of Miami is a non-profit advocacy organization run by parents of children with disabilities. The parent center provides information, workshops and advocacy services to educate parents about the rights of children with disabilities – including ASD – in the public school system.
- Another not-for-profit organization, the Autism Society of Florida is led by parents of children with ASD and works to ensure full participation and self-determination in every aspect of life for people with autism by opening avenues of self-advocacy and advocating on behalf of others. Visit https://www.autismfl.org/current-events to learn more about their activities and resources.
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a parenting education program that serves families with children ages 2-12 with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, and chronic illnesses. Activities enhance parent-child relationships, while increasing effective discipline and reducing parental stress. To sign up, call 305.243.0234 or send an email to email@example.com.
- Arts4All Florida champions arts education by providing support and cultural experiences for and by people with disabilities. Their services include art therapy for children and young adults in the spectrum. Visit www.arts4allflorida.org for more information.
- Baptist Health South Florida offers an Autism Support Group hosted by Carol del Sol, RN and parent of a child with autism. The support group meets once a month and offers parents and caregivers the opportunity to share their story, ask questions and receive support. For more information call 786.467.2777 or email Carold@baptisthealth.net.
- Finally, the Advocacy Network on Disabilities has been a leading advocate for the inclusion and support of children with disabilities since 1975. The organization has been integral to informing the community about the challenges children and families are affected by disability. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been an avid leader in providing in-home support to families with children with significant needs. Among its many services, it trains other organizations on inclusion of children with disabilities, including specifically autism spectrum disorder. The Advocacy Center on Disabilities, which was named as one of The Children's Trust Programs of the Year, provides no-cost services for children with intellectual, developmental, sensory, physical, social-emotional and other conditions; and family members and professionals who are working with the children and adults described above. As well as providing some services itself, the organization also arranges and coordinates others. If you are an individual or family member who needs help, call 305.596.1160, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit website.