Autism Society of West Shore (ASWS) is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization of parents, school staff, and others who actively seek to support and advocate for persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

Our Mission

To advocate and support meaningful participation in all aspects of life for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families in West Michigan.

Click here for a brochure

In the News

CDC Announces New Incidence Rates
Data and Statistics

How to Apply for Disability Benefits

click here to go to website

Feds Clarify How To Apply For Autism Tracking Devices

click here to read the article

Save the Date

Ten Helpful Hints for Visitors to Household with a Family Member with Autism

#1- CALL AHEAD This may seem like a no-brainer, but its HUGE!! People with autism thrive in structured environments. But when the 'out of the ordinary' happens, it can cause terrible anxiety. So popping in is a no-no. Please call ahead so that the family KNOWS you're coming
#2- ASK Ask the person with autism (or their family) if they are sensitive to sound, should you speak quietly. Are they sensitive to touch? Is it better to give them a big bear hug or to just gently touch their hand? Find out the best way to interact with the autistic person. That way, when you meet, you WILL interact.
#3 BRING SOMETHING Its the holidays, if you are planning on bringing gifts, ASK what the person with autism enjoys! Can you bring something that will break the ice? I know a young man who will love you immediately if you walk in with a can of Sprite. He doesn't drink it, just collects them. But you have a friend for life if you show up with that can. Maybe you can bring some treats or food for a meal. Ask, find out what is needed, and wanted
#4 FIND OUT THE RULES OF THE HOUSE These often differ in an autism household, out of necessity. Perhaps doors are locked to keep people in (wandering is a common problem in autism households), if that;s the case, make SURE you lock the door behind you.
#5 AGREE AHEAD OF TIME HOW LONG YOUR VISIT WILL BE.And make it clear that if the parents feel that their child is overwhelmed that they can let you know and you can cut the visit short, even if its only been five minutes since you arrived
#6 COME WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR Sometimes very strange things happen in Autism Households. Like kids suddenly taking all their clothes off, or sudden loud noises, or internal thoughts being voiced out loud, or someone insisting they want to take your shoes off and play with your socks. Who knows. But understand, we see these behaviors everyday. They are not odd to us, in fact, we often find them endearing or see the humor in them or we feel pride in this newly acquired skill. And so should you
#7 DON'T EXPECT A CLEAN HOUSE really. just don't
#8 YOU MAY HAVE TO OCCUPY YOURSELF for an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes our children can become overwhelmed, and may need a lot help decompressing. Sometimes that decompressing is necessarily provided separately from the group. And sometimes the care that is needed comes up unexpectedly. So expect it. Bring a book and keep yourself busy. It will make our lives a lot easier to know you understand, and can wait patiently while we tend to our children.
#9 REMEMBER THAT THE PERSON WITH AUTISM IS A PERSON Even someone who is non-verbal should be spoken to, not spoken at, or spoken of. Just because they don't communicate in a language you understand does not mean they do not understand you.
#10 UNDERSTAND HOW SPECIAL YOU ARE You would not be invited, or your invitation for a visit accepted, if you weren't special. By accepting you into our home, we are letting you know we TRUST you. We trust that you will treat us and our child with love and respect, and you are important enough for us to want to share our family life with you. We don't do that for any old Tom Dick or Harriet So remember that you are not there to visit us out of pity, or to give us a break (we'd love a break, but not when you're visiting!). You are there because you are special to us, and we believe you will see just how special our child is too.
Contributed by Lisa Pollard ABA and Respite Services Blogger

Upcoming Events

Future Planning Speakers
November 24
Allison Schantz, CBI Teacher for Ottawa County and Krista Krefeld, Transition Coordinator for the OAISD.
If your son/daughter is in their high school career, plan to come and hear Allison present on the CBI (Community Based Instruction) journey. She will present an option for your son/daughter after high school. CBI is the next step for many young people who do not get their diploma. Krista, the ISD Transition Coordinator will be on hand to address the fact that “all students leave school to transition into their adult lives.” Again, an uncertain time for many people but, these ladies are caring, compassionate, and dedicated to providing our children with life skills, education, and services.
Sessions will be held in the Conference Room at City on a Hill. Please use the Pine Street entrance near the Café (100 South Pine, Zeeland, MI 49464). Each session will be held on the date listed from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, light refreshments provided. Please RSVP by call the office at (616) 748-6011. Please state who will be attending and which session(s) you will be participating in.

Gingerbread House Decorating
Parent & Child Gingerbread House Making Day! 
Saturday December 1, 2014 10:00a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
This event is open to either mom or dad and their child with autism. The gingerbread making class will be held at Desserts by Design and is free outing for the child and their parent. There are a limited number of spots available so please register by phone quickly (616-395-3222) by December 1st.  1:00 session is filled please register for the 10:00 a.m. session

West Michigan Special Hockey Association  
Players over the age of five, male or female, with developmental disabilities are invited to
come and get free on ice instruction and structured game experience throughout the season.

Contact Jean at or call 616-285-4600 for more information.
Patterson Ice Center, 2550 Patterson Avenue Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Scholarship Opportunities

Family Hope Foundation

Family Hope Foundation offers financial assistance for therapy that is not covered by insurance. Scholarships of up to and including $1,000 per applicant are awarded twice a year, April 1st & October 1st.

Click here for guidelines and application


To learn more about conferences that are available at the local, state and national levels, click here.

Disclaimer: It is important to do your own research and make your own informed decisions. Please note that Autism Society of West Shore does not endorse any specific therapy, product, treatment, strategy, opinions, service or individual. We do, however, endorse your right to information.