by Chris Williams | Aug 28, 2015

Family Support Groups in the Bay Area


It’s hard at times. The attention your child needs, the scheduling, therapy, school days. Now and then, we all need a helping hand.

Regional Centers provide some support through their programs and local events. These are great, and we always encourage our parents to make use of them.

But if you need more than that, let us help.

Over the years we’ve seen parents come together to help one another. It’s very beneficial for each parent as well as their children. These support groups take many forms & serve many purposes.

If you’d like to join such a group, or just need the occasional outing, here are some family support groups you can look into. You’ll find these groups across the entire Bay Area.

  1. Parents Helping Parents (“PHP”)
    Office: 1400 Parkmoor Avenue, Suite 100
    San Jose, California 95126
    Tel (408) 727-5775
    Parents Helping Parents Facebook Page 

    PHP helps families who have children of any age with special needs. This support group has been vetted by SARC (San Andreas Regional Center) and has an excellent program. PHP runs support groups specific to a certain condition or disability. They will help you find other parents in similar situations to yours.

  2. Autism Playgroup San Jose
    Meetup Group, 212 Members

    This Meetup group organizes play dates for children with autism & related special needs. Social activities like trips to a park, swimming days, or just playing at one member’s house. There’s even the occasional “Moms Night Out” for relaxing. Plenty of events are already scheduled, with more coming.

  3. San Francisco Autism Society – Calendar 
    Mailing Address: P.O. Box 249
    San Mateo, California 94401
    Tel (650) 637-7772 

    The San Francisco Autism Society serves the entire San Francisco Bay Area. This page hosts their Community Calendar, where you can find all sorts of local groups & events. Hiking clubs, movie days, workshops, museum trips and more. Some of the other local support groups post their events to the Autism Society calendar. It’s a helpful place to look for San Francisco events where you & your family are welcome.

  4. Martial Arts for Kids with Special Needs 
    Meetup Group, 38 Members
    Held at: Darcio Lira Martial Arts
    1601 Railroad Avenue
    Livermore, California 94551
    Tel (925) 549-1590

    What’s a fun way for children to learn coordination and punch things … without hurting themselves? Martial arts! This Meetup group meets at 10:30 every Saturday morning, at Darcio Lira Martial Arts in Livermore. Two Sensei (teachers) work with special needs children from ages 5-16. The weekly class helps them learn social skills, awareness of their surroundings, and coordination. The class is free, but donations are accepted.

  5. Bay Area Parents of Special Needs Children 
    Meetup Group, 192 Members

    This Meetup Group is a little different. It’s meant for you, the parent. All parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down syndrome, ADHD, & so on are welcome. It’s a place to ask questions, find useful resources, share experiences with other parents who understand your situation, and more. The group has been quiet for a while, but still maintains a healthy membership. Any member can suggest a Meetup, so don’t hesitate to make a suggestion.


Do you know of a family support group not on this list? Please send it to us at The more groups we know about, the more parents we can inform.

We hope one (or more!) of these groups gives you a helping hand, whenever you need it. Fun activities for your child, relaxing opportunities for you, and a community helping one another – these things help us all thrive.

See you next month!

AMC Sensory-Friendly Films
(in partnership with the Autism Society)


A “Sensory-Friendly Film” is a special movie time for special-needs children. The movie is not as loud, the lights are adjusted, and there’s no pressure to keep your child quiet & sitting still. If they want to get up, talk, or sing along, that’s fine.

AMC Theatres has partnered with the Autism Society to host Sensory-Friendly Film days every month. Right now two local AMCs host Sensory Movies: the AMC Mercado in Santa Clara, and the Cupertino Square 16 in Cupertino.

For September, the movie is “Hotel Transylvania” and it will air on Saturday, September 26.

For full details, visit AMC Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theatres –

Autism Tips: Taking Your Child into the Community

Often we find that the children we work with have a difficult time when out in their community. Some children are afraid of loud sounds, or crowds. Some need to leave the store with a new toy or candy. Or for unknown reasons, they just cry in all outside places.

But even with these behaviors, kids need to experience the world and adapt to being in new places. Here’s how you can make it easier.


  1. Before going out into the community, have a plan. Set yourself up to be successful.

    We’ve seen families bring 3 kids to the store with no support or backup. One child has a meltdown, the other runs off, and another wants the cookies opened right now. Not exactly a successful trip!

    If you have backup, such as a partner or friend, bring them with you. Or, leave some children behind at home with another adult (if you must go out alone).

  2. Take short trips to desensitize the child.

    If you’d like your child to accompany you to the store without getting upset, this method should help. Make small trips with no plan of buying anything. Try going to places for only a few minutes, then leaving (on your terms, not the child’s). This helps the child adjust to the process of going out in the community, and returning home.

    If you want, you could bring some small snacks they love, or a favorite small toy. This way you’ll periodically reinforce their good behavior. For example, give them a small snack every 30 seconds or so when they’ve walked nicely with you. (Tell them they’re doing great too; this is excellent reinforcement.)

  3. Prepare for tantrums the first couple times.

    Some children will only leave a store if they get something. If your child is like this, make short trips to the store over & over…but don’t buy them a toy.

    The short trip helps to desensitize them. The lack of getting something teaches them a new behavior.

    They will resist at first, so prepare for a few tantrums. It’s unpleasant, we know, but you can do it. Once they begin leaving the store without crying, reinforce their good behavior with something else (not a toy from the store – perhaps a small snack). And a pat on the back too.

For additional support or ideas, please ask your A is for Apple supervisor.

Ask AIFA: Will Therapy “X” Work for My Child?


“Dear A is for Apple,
My friend said art/water/oxygen therapy worked for her child. Would it work for mine too?”

Many therapies are proclaimed as “the solution” for children with developmental disorders. Some of the therapies we’ve heard about from parents are:

  • Horseback Riding therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Water/Swim therapy
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Dog therapy
  • Brain mapping
  • …and many more!

It’s understandable to hope for big improvements with activities like these. However, be careful with these “non-evidence-based” therapies.

We have heard some good anecdotes about working with dogs. That’s great – many children love dogs! But unlike ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), there is no well-controlled, reviewed, and published study behind these “therapies”.

ABA practices are evidence-based. Certified service providers such as BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) are regulated nationwide to make sure we all follow the evidence-based practices with children like yours.

If you’re curious about an “alternative therapy”, do some research and look for studies behind it. Maybe your child will respond to it; maybe not. You can try, but the evidence just isn’t there. The best way to look for studies behind it is finding articles in peer reviewed journals. The JABA (Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis) is a big, well-known peer-reviewed journal. Ask your service provider or doctor if you need help finding any evidence behind the “therapy” they recommend.

Also, our recommendation: Don’t start multiple therapies at once. Squeezing in 5 different types of therapy takes up lots of time, exhausts the child, and you don’t know which therapy is contributing to your child’s progress (or regress).

If you still have questions, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.

Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

Inside A is for Apple
Stanford Microbiome Study – Would You Like to Participate?

The other day, a research team from Stanford University contacted us. They told us about a new study involving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the human microbiome.

What’s the microbiome? According to the Stanford study’s page:
“Our body hosts up to 100 trillion microbial cells that comprise the human microbiome, and outnumber human cells by 10 fold. These microbes play a critical role in human physiology by balancing the immune system, producing vitamins, promoting gastrointestinal motility, and impacting behavior.”


Stanford wants to know if there’s any link between the microbiome and behavior associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Would you like to help them out?

Participation involves answering a few questions, recording a video of your child, and sending in some samples (swabs, etc.). Stanford will provide the materials. There’s no cost to you.

A is for Apple, Inc. is not affiliated with Stanford University in any way. We’re just passing the word along to you, our parents, to participate. If you want to.

To learn more and sign up, go to

By |2018-11-29T00:36:41+00:00September 21st, 2015|Thrive|0 Comments

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!

About the Author:

Leave A Comment