A while ago, I was talking to someone at work and I mentioned my friend Shannon. Said coworker replied, huh, I don’t recall you ever mentioning your friend Shannon. I explained Shannon was a fellow blogger I had met years ago at a BlogHer conference and we stayed in touch. Co-worker explained that she was surprised, because I normally refer to most people I am circled with as acquaintances. I laughed – no word for Shannon would do her justice but friend.
And that’s the way it is with most special needs parents I have met through the blogosphere. We’re friends – immediate and fast friends. Friends who are engaged in putting every energy into advocating for their kids, but friends who wouldn’t think twice about helping out another parent in need.
It’s why when a developmental pediatrician told us our son was on the spectrum, and offered to set up counseling sessions, we didn’t flinch. First off, he wasn’t telling us anything about our son that changed how we treated him or how much we loved him. Secondly, I knew that if I did need counseling, or just a person to spill to, I had friends a plenty online whom I knew I could count on.
It’s why when a conference like BlogHer sponsors a special needs panel or mini-conference, parents pack the room. We want to be there, to experience what others have to share, to support our friends, and to hear about the amazing children we have the privilege of raising.
It’s why when something happens that doesn’t make sense, whether it’s in school, the playground or at home, I’m likely to send a tweet to another mom who’s probably been there and had to deal with it. I’ve been so fortunate to have found a strong circle of parents out there to learn from, laugh with and cheer on our kids with. No doubt I have other parents in our wonderful community who are there for me, as I try to be for them. But the wider reach that the Internet brings to the special needs community is simply a magical thing.
I think about my grandmother who had what would now be called a special needs child (my uncle, who I refer to when asked by doctors if we have other instances of ”issues” in our family as the “undiagnosed one”) but back then was simply labeled “difficult” and “uncontrollable”. She went with him to school many days to keep him in line. She was on every parent board to keep an eye on what he was doing and to advocated for him. She had virtually no support, but as a parent, she did what she could. I always felt she was the strongest woman I ever met, and being in her shoes makes me realize that all over again.
Today is Autism Awareness Day, something that might have been truly frightening to me years ago. Now, it’s something I face with understanding and insights.
Do me a solid, will you? Visit one of these amazing blogs written by the parents of special needs kids – all kinds of kids, not just those on the spectrum. Betcha can’t stop at just one. And check out the book every parent of a child on the spectrum should have, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. You’ll be glad you did.
The Family Room – inactive at the moment, but how can I not give a shout out to my dear Susan Etlinger who holds my hand every day whether she knows it or not.
For me, this is what AWARE truly is all about.