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Where Are the Resources for Autistic Children in Southwest Florida?

When it comes to finding a support group or information about how to deal with a loved one who has been diagnosed with autism, it seems like Southwest Florida comes up short. But with a little extra research, you’re bound to find several organizations on the local and national level.

Family Initiative is one of the local resources parents can turn to if they have a child on the autism spectrum.

Family Initiative hosts the Saturday’s Play Group, which provides a safe and supportive environment for children to develop socialization skills and to build friendships each week. The organization also has a partnership with the Alliance for the Arts where autistic children can work on their social skills through creative arts including acting and improv classes.

Family Initiative also offers groups where parents can network and get support from other families. “It’s been awesome to see some of the friendships and support networks that have formed families,” said Anjali Van Drie, who is the founder of Family Initiative.

Extra Curricular Activities

In addition, Family Initiative encourages children on the spectrum to participate in athletic activities.

“Most kids with special needs will spend the majority of their time by themselves,” Jason Campagnolo said, who is a coach at TopSoccer.

TopSoccer modifies traditional soccer in a way that is more applicable to children with special needs between the ages of 4-years-old to 22-years-old. The program is free and relies mainly on volunteers.

“We want to make sure they get out there and participate,” Jason said.

Additional Resources

Get Diagnosed

A child as young as the age of one will show signs that he or she is autistic. These signs can include an avoidance of joyful expressions by six months and older. By nine months, a child should show other facial expressions.

Babbling, according to Autism Speaks an organization that seeks to empower people with autism and their families, should occur before 12 months. The child should communicate with words by 12 months, too.

Recognizing these signs will improve future learning, communication, and social skills. There are several SWFL options for tests, such as the mobile autism screening for young children .

Amanda Berry’s child is autistic. If you believe your child might be on the spectrum, Amanda recommends that parents get their child properly diagnosed at an autism screening in SWFL to obtain “access to therapy as soon as possible.”

Additional reporting by Val Simpson and Michael Adam Mora