The AUTSPOT: An Online Community for Parents, Families, and Specialists Affected by Autism
My 20-year-old cousin, Matthew, was diagnosed with autism seventeen years ago, when autism affected only one in every 4,000 children, and there were very little resources to support the autism community. We quickly realized that much of the support and knowledge that we received came from other parents and families in the autism community who could relate to what we were experiencing. Today autism is far more prevalent, better understood, and recognized by many more people across the globe. In honor of my cousin Matthew, my close family friend, Greg Koltsov, and I decided to create an online community for parents, families, and specialists across the globe affected by autism.
Since TheAUTSPOT launched in late 2009, it has become the largest and fastest growing online support system for families and specialists in the autism community. Today nearly 15,000 parents, specialists, and young adults with autism come to The AUTSPOT to interact with one another and take advantage of all the services available through the website. TheAUTSPOT’s blogging and story posting features allow all of its site members to share inspirational stories with one another, and receive the advice, knowledge, and motivation that families in the autism community need.
The social network also has a rapidly growing resources section, which allows visitors to search for autism resources (therapists, doctors, local support groups, schools, special needs lawyers, dentists, diet providers, summer camps, recreational activities, etc.) in their cities, states, and countries around the world. The resources section is user-based, so site members have the ability to submit autism resources that they know of to our resources section as well.
TheAUTSPOT library gives site visitors the opportunity to learn about everything from autism-related therapies to legal advice. Many of our site members benefit tremendously from our online calendar, which shows all of the autism-related events taking place throughout the year (national conferences, seminars, local support groups, etc.), and allows each member to post other autism-related activities that they know of as well. And lastly, our most unique feature is our developmental chart, which allows each family on the site to plot out the progress of their child’s developmental skills as they mature in age.
While we were constructing TheAUTSPOT, we began to notice a re-occurring trend in the autism community. Just about every family needed therapy and intervention for their child on the autism spectrum, but very few families actually had the money to afford them. So, in late 2009, we created TheAUTSPOT Foundation to help families provide for the services that their children with autism need to mature and develop.
Soon after we constructed the Foundation, we started working closely with the Los Angeles Clippers and the Donald Sterling Foundation. The Donald Sterling Foundation thought highly of the mission of TheAUTSPOT Foundation, and on four different occasions they have provided us with 150-200 tickets to invite our families in the autism community to Clippers games. These events have been instrumental in raising awareness for the Foundation, and have provided nights of entertainment for families looking to have safe fun in a family-friendly environment.
Just this past August we threw a gala at the Beverly Hills Brooklawn Mansion with over 400 guests in attendance. By the end of the night we had raised close to $4,000, all of which went to support private speech therapy services for a non-verbal 3-year-old with autism. It was a great success and an article about the event was published in the Long Beach Press Telegram.
We encourage you to visit our site and join for free!
The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.