the third rule of autism club
Find your place
It isn’t easy to navigate the autism journey. It isn’t easy navigating it for my child, his brother or for myself.
Autism isolates. Some of this isolation is self-imposed – often for reasons of self-preservation. It was really hard to push a trolley around a supermarket as quickly as possible, to get the much-needed groceries while my older son, then 6, tried to keep up, and help, while my younger son, then 4, sat in the trolley and screamed. And screamed. And screamed. This kind of experience stopped me going out, from doing anything that wasn’t vital. Having someone over to our house at that time was near impossible.
I felt like autism had put up an invisible wall between us and the rest of the world. And with the kind of experiences I just described, it is pretty easy to see why staying home was safer. Less stressful.
Very soon after my son’s diagnosis, I attended some parent information groups and sessions. I met other local autism parents. But I think we were all pretty overwhelmed – recently diagnosed children, information overload, exhaustion (sleep? not many of us, including our children, were having that magical experience) all contributed towards us keeping our distance. My fears about my son’s aggression compounded the reasons to stay home.
I chose to seek a community online. It started with reading blogs. Mostly, they were from other autism parents. I would click new blog links from each blog I visited. I was so relieved to find other people sharing their stories, I felt less alone. I decided to join in.
I found some beautiful people through blogging. I have even met some in real life. I was graciously, bravely even, invited to stay in one new friend’s home. I am so grateful to have met these people. They are inspirational, generous, warm-hearted and supportive.
Our autism journey officially began in December of 2007 (even though we had been living with it from when my son was born in 2004). Finding a place to connect, share and be heard takes time and patience. It takes being open to trying, though. For me, being tentative about connecting has been an important part of the process of finding a place. I needed some time to figure out what kind of people I wanted to connect with. It also depends on what ways you like to connect.
I think the most important factor for finding your place is being able to answer yes to the following questions:
Do you feel safe?
Do you feel included?
Do you feel respected?
Do you feel supported?
Do you feel you can be yourself?
Finding the people that make you feel this way can be very challenging. It can be surprising where some connections can come from. It might even be a virtual place or group, made up of people you may never meet in real life. They could touch your life in very unique and profound ways, and enrich your life beyond imagining.
Keep looking, keep connecting in whatever way works for you.
You can find your place.