It’s amazing how some of the most helpful ideas come from the people who actually need them the most. Just 17 years ago, my 20-year-old cousin, Matthew, was diagnosed with a somewhat misunderstood disorder called autism. At that time, Matthew was one of the 2,500 children in the United States diagnosed with autism, which is a developmental disability that nobody in my family knew very much about. Through research and visits to doctors, we were able to find our way, but throughout Matthew’s adolescence, we could only wish to receive support, knowledge, and motivation from other families in our situation. Back then, autism diagnoses were just too few and far between for us to get the necessary resources and community involvement that we needed. It was not until Matthew was a young adult that the prevalence of autism started to increase around the world, and an active autism community of families, researchers, and organizations began to take shape.
Inspired by my family’s experience with Matthew, I felt encouraged to provide a tool to the growing autism community, which would have brought my family the support that we needed when Matthew was young. This tool came in the form of an autism online community which my close family and college friend, Greg Koltsov, and I put together and launched about a year-and-a-half ago. Today, www.TheAUTSPOT.com connects nearly 20,000 families around the globe and is becoming the online hub for autism support, information, and resources. The site allows families around the world to share information and stories with one another, as well as find and submit information about a variety of autism- related resources (schools, therapists, special needs lawyers, dentists, summer camps, diet providers, etc.) in their neighborhoods. TheAUTSPOT calendar allows families to find details about different global autism-related events, and the site even has simple developmental charts which allow families to plot the progress of their child’s developmental characteristics. TheAUTSPOT.com consists of all of the components that my family needed and wished for when Matthew was younger, and today it generates more support than we could ever imagine because there are so many more families touched by autism. The online community also gave birth to www.TheAUTSPOTfoundation.org, which aims to raise funds to help sponsor therapy and intervention for children on the autism spectrum.
We just began an exciting new relationship with the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), and the timing couldn’t be any better. CARD has recently introduced a very well researched and effective recovery program called “Skills,” and we are very excited to begin informing our families about its success. TheAUTSPOT.com has only struck the tip of the iceberg. Within the next year we plan to introduce new technology and features to the website that we never even imagined in the beginning, which will surely bring even more information and direction to the lives of families around the world dealing with autism. We are confident that these features will be of benefit to your family, as well as many other families that are affiliated with the CARD organization. CARD and TheAUTSPOT.com share a very similar perspective on the scope of autism in our community. We both have a strong focus on actually providing creative and effective services and resources to families, rather than backing political views or ideologies that have surfaced throughout the years. Our goal is simple: we just aim to give families what they need.