As parents, especially parents of children with autism, we need support from others to get through the big and little crises of our lives. There’s nothing wrong with that. Actually getting that support, however, can be a challenge.
For some, the problem seems to be an unwillingness to ask. For others, the problem seems to be a lack of sources for support. There are many sources for support available, but accessing any of them requires effort. Whether it’s asking for help from those in your support system or building the support system that will meet your needs, it’s not easy. But that doesn’t make it impossible.
The first thing we need to do is to change the way we look at support. Communities exist to provide support. There’s no shame in accessing that support. Whether the potential source is personal or societal, ask for the support you need. While there are exceptions, usually you won’t get it unless you ask.
The second thing we need to do is find out what is available. Resources will differ depending on the community in which you life and the support system you have built. Ask around. There may be established programs that provide assistance you’re unaware of. A good place to start is your local First Call program (if such a program exists) or your local disabilities office. Teachers, social workers, and volunteers may also have leads on possible sources of support. Again, they may not realize you need to know unless you ask. Don’t assume programs that provide the support you need don’t already exist simply because nobody has mentioned them. Ask.
The third thing we need to do is build on what we already have. You have family, friends, co-workers, neighbors. Reach through them to reach out to others. You do this by letting people know what you need and asking them if they know anyone who might be able to help. In professional circles, this is called networking, but the benefits of networking are not limited to professional circles. You might be surprised at what you find. Churches, clubs, and other organizations are often excellent resources. They might not have established programs that meet your needs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to pitch in however they can.
The last thing we need to consider is building the programs we need. Government organizations should not be our only, or even our primary, recourse for changing the levels of support available. Most programs start with charitable organizations. They’re started by people with passion. If you can be that person with passion, you can probably find a charitable organization to help you help yourself and others. Creating a program from scratch isn’t easy. Planning, fund raising, and program implementation are time-consuming. When you’re already stretched so thin you need to ask for help and build a program from scratch, it may seem an insurmountable responsibility. But this is how things start. Reach out to those who can offer support on a more temporary basis while you build the social infrastructure to create lasting support.
None of this is easy, but the only way to increase the support that is available is to reach out and build up.