One in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, so you would think that by now there would be more infrastructure to help parents navigate the murky waters of autism. But the truth is that too often, parents receive a diagnosis and are left to fend for themselves, with little to no understanding of what kinds of resources are available to them. Depending on where you live, you might be able to locate a nearby support group, but there’s no guarantee.
To help parents locate a stronger foothold in the uncharted terrain of autism, MyHealthTeams announced Tuesday the launch of MyAutismTeam, a social network designed exclusively for parents of autistic children.
What’s particularly interesting about the platform—I think—is that it doesn’t simply cut and paste the Facebook model and apply it to parents of autistic children. It makes sense—autism is a unique disorder, so it requires a unique social network. The company describes MyAutismTeam as a Facebook-meets-Yelp kind of network, where parents can connect while also sharing information on local resources, the best schools and teachers, solid doctors and therapists, where to find good legal support, and even what kinds of nearby activity groups and camps your child can join.
And the network has something to meet everyone’s needs, from parents with a newly diagnosed toddler who are looking for early intervention therapies, to parents of autistic teenagers who need help transitioning to more independent lifestyles.
“The mission of MyAutismTeam is to make it easy for parents of children with autism to find the best people around to help their children thrive,” CEO Eric Peacock tells me. “That includes finding other parents like them and finding local providers – everyone from the speech therapist and developmental pediatrician to the barber, dentist and piano teacher who understand the needs of a child on the autism spectrum.”
The site launched in beta in June with just 30 parents in the Bay Area. Since then, the network has amassed a staggering 12,500 users, which is more than 1% of all families with autism in the U.S. Some 85% of the users are moms, which makes sense, since they’re usually the primary caregivers of the household. In terms of the ages of the children, 30% of the parents on the site have children who are preschool aged or younger, 34% have school-aged or preteen children, 26% have autistic teenagers, and the remaining 10% have adult children with autism.
Peacock added that there are currently 500,000 children with autism who will become adults by the end of this decade. Meanwhile, services for children with autism typically run out at age 21, which means after that, parents are on their own, so finding and building a solid support network in preparation for that moment is critical.
To help spread the word, MyAutismTeam has partnered with Autism Speaks, the largest autism research and advocacy organization in the world.
“MyAutismTeam is filling a basic human need for support, validation and information from people who understand what it’s like to have a child with autism,” said Peacock. “Often, friends and family without kids with autism can’t really understand or identify with these issues – leaving an emotional void for the parent of the child with autism.”