Family needs of a child with autism.

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

The family of a child with autism is just like any other family in the community. They have fun, challenges, heartbreak, worries, laughs, and celebrations just like your family. The biggest difference between a family of a child with autism and another family is that those experiences are intensified.

This year, Easter Seals, with the support of the Autism Society of America and Mass Mutual Financial Group, completed a national study focusing on families of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This one-of-a-kind landmark study put number values to topics that were known to be of concern to families living with autism.

The results gathered from our groundbreaking autism study paint a startling picture of the life-long fears and anxieties people with autism and their families face ... and the disparities among parents of children with autism as compared to parents of typically developing children:

• Nearly 80% are extremely or very concerned about their child's independence as an adult.

• Only 14% feel that their child will be able to make life decisions.

• Only 17% think their child will make friends.

• They report that they're "financially drowning," with concerns for their child's financial future.

• Key to adult independence is employment, yet only 24% of teenagers with autism have looked for a job, compared to 77% of their typically developing peers. And 76% of parents of children with autism are concerned about their child's future employment, when only 35% of typical parents share this fear.

Millions of families are desperate for solutions and resources. Easter Seals and others in the autism community are doing their best, but current systems, structures and resources to help people with autism and their families do not adequately meet the growing need, especially for adults with autism. Easter Seals will use these findings to raise awareness of and advocate for the life-long services families living with autism desperately need.

In addition to this sample of results, we know that families living with autism need support, friendship, and understanding. Parents with children with autism want to take their children to all the places other families go the park, the zoo, the grocery store and they want the same great experiences other families have. Families living with autism have so many challenges to face that many times outings to these places result in stress, frustration, child meltdowns. So, the next time you are out with your family and see a family that is having a difficult time - have a kind thought or word for them they might be living with autism and your kindness may be the thing that helps them get through this difficult moment.