Searching “Asperger support group near me” is not always the simple task it seems. Often the very individuals in need of a support group have to create their own support group. Both families and the individual with aspergers (which now forms part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder) can greatly benefit from support groups. Support groups bring people who are going through similar experiences together and their value should not be underestimated. Living with aspergers or living with a family member who has aspergers can be a very trying and challenging task. Social isolation is often very real for both parents and individuals and thus having an easily accessible aspergers support group can be invaluable.
The need for and type of support group is likely to vary greatly depending on where individuals and families are in their journey. When an aspergers diagnosis is received there is often a multitude of different and at time conflicting emotions and thoughts. There is panic in terms of finding out all the relevant and important information, there is confusion around sifting through what is in actual fact important and helpful and what is not and then there is the shattered worldview. For those who are a little further on in their journey they may benefit more from having a space to share what interventions they have found helpful and which have not made a difference.
Aspergers support groups can give parents and caregivers a space where not only knowledge and resources are shared but also a space when member can share in their struggles with people who are walking the ‘same road’ as they are. Professionals play a key role in providing treatment and therapies but they often lack the true understanding of what it is like to live with and be the guardian day in and day out of a person who has aspergers. Parents and caregivers can share their frustrations and feelings which may include feeling of guilt and shame and then more guilt for feeling those feelings. Support groups can help normalise these experiences and in turn give members a sense of hope. They also have the wonderful capacity to help members forge long and lasting friendships with other families.
For the individual with aspergers a support group for them may also prove to be beneficial. We all long to be able to connect with people who think and behave like we do without us having to explain ourselves and as such support groups can be these spaces for those with aspergers.
However there is often the challenge of finding an ‘asperger support group near me’, South Africa in general lacks a support network for meeting the most basic needs of individuals and families with special needs, let alone making provision for support groups. As with most things technology and in particular social media, has in part filled this gap, there a number of Facebook support groups for aspergers which can provide a sense of community and support. Online support groups have their benefits in that it is often less daunting to join in that you can join from the comfort of your own home and the group is essentially on call 24/7, they do however lack the face-to-face contact which in itself can provide a sense of connectedness in a very challenging and isolating journey.
At The Star Academy, we endeavour to ‘pair up’ parents who are walking similar paths upon request for a support group, as we find that because of the breadth of the autism spectrum, what may benefit the parent of one child with autism may not benefit the parent of another child with autism.
– Janine Clark