When I became a new mother, I was amazed at the instant sorority I joined. Motherhood. Every mother can relate to another by the simple fact that they are both mothers. They know what it is like to put the needs of their baby ahead of their own. They know the deep worry that comes with a very sick child.
They know the bittersweet feeling of knowing their child is growing up too fast, and wishing they could be a baby for just a little longer. And they all know the fun of watching other children and being reminded of their child when they were at that age.
When we found out that our son is on the Autism spectrum, it felt SO lonely. I felt like somehow I had left the sorority called motherhood, and instead joined the “Special Needs– –Sit in the Corner and Feel Sorry for Yourself Sorority.” I didn’t want to go. I felt like my other mom friends were no longer a resource that I could rely on for understanding and support. Suddenly it felt like a “me VS them” situation. It was awful!
It has taken about a year, but I’ve found that I was wrong to think my membership in the Motherhood Sorority changed. I was wrong to separate myself from my friends, convinced they could not relate or that they would judge me, or worse, judge my child.
I know that Autism, particularly high functioning Autism, is more prevalent now than it ever has been. But I still don’t know many Autism moms. And even fewer whose kids are just like mine. So I have started looking for the similarities in the families around me, to bring myself back from the darkness. I’ve found those similarities in the strangest places.
I found an understanding mom friend when I listened to my neighbor talk about how hard it is for her to watch her teenage daughter deal with serious anxiety. My son has serious anxiety too. That conversation brought me one step closer to rejoining the sorority of motherhood. I found another wonderful lifeline when another friend talked about how smart her son is, and how keeping up with him can be a challenge. I know how that feels! And we bonded over that.
I’m learning that being a special needs mom doesn’t need to be isolating. There are so many ways that we can relate to each other as women. There is strength in numbers, and wisdom in listening to how others have solved their problems. I’m still finding my footing. This adventure is not over for me. But I’m feeling more confident, and more solid.
I am also taking the time to learn a new appreciation for my child. We are homeschooling this year. It’s different than last year. Last year I pulled him out of school at the end of the year, with two months left. We were in crisis and spent a lot of time trying to get him help. But I am thrilled to see that he is more himself now than he has been in a long time.
He laughs again, he is not as angry all the time. And he seems willing to try new things again. So this homeschool year is different because I am working with a different, more healthy kid. I am also using My Tech High, which I highly recommend to everyone who can use it. They are delightful to work with. And my son is having so much fun.
I am finding that I also belong to another new group of women with the homeschooling moms. They are a fun group. As I am looking for new ways that I actually belong with the women around me, I am also coming to accept my son more unconditionally.
For a long time, I only saw his diagnosis. It was the only way I could try to relate to him because he had become someone I didn’t know in our mutual frustration with each other. But I’ve learned that every kid on the Spectrum is different. My son is high functioning, but very different from every other high-functioning kid I know. And that’s ok. It’s wonderful actually. It reminds me all over again that we are all uniquely part of the human family.
If you are on a similar journey to mine, I have a little advice. I used to feel a connection to other mothers in large chunks if that makes sense. Becoming a mom is a large change. But now I find similarities in the small things. We all love hearing our children laugh. We all get irritated when our kids repeat things over and over again. And we all worry for their safety. So our Spectrum kids aren’t that different.
I’ve also found a wonderful lifeline with support groups on Facebook. Some of the groups require you get permission to join. Some of them are public. And all of them have other special needs parents or adult special needs members. It’s wonderful to hear their advice and perspective. Here are a few groups I recommend joining:
BigMAK’s— (Mothers of Autistic Kids) Your area may just be MAK’s, but do a Facebook search and see. In my area it required an invite be sent from a member of the group. But these ladies really are a great community of support for me.
Asperger Parents–— This is also a closed group. But when you request admission they are quick to respond. And I love this group. It’s safe and supportive and anyone to join.
Asperger and Autism Parent Support Network.— This one is run by Asperger Experts. And even though it requires a paid subscription, they have been a wonderful resource for me. I learned what Asperger’s is, and a lot of how to cope with my son’s meltdowns and even help pull him out of “defense mode.”. The group is lead by a man with Asperger’s who has been through it all before. Hearing his perspective is enlightening.
Utah Parent Center— This is an example of a regional support group. There is one for almost every state and region. So search your area in the Facebook search bar, and see what you find. They can help you find services and support you with your child and their 504 and IEP needs at your school.
Good luck in your journey. I hope my experiences can help you a little. Thanks for letting me share.
Abby is a one of those women who accidentally finds herself on the PTA board. She loves to be involved, and nothing matters more to her than her family and her faith. She comes from a family with many autistic members. And now she gets to see how her mother felt raising an autistic son. As she wades into this new world, she invites us to join her. Hopefully, we will all learn something new along the way. If you or a family member have autism yourself, Abby wants you to know that this isn't a bad thing. It's just an adjustment, and you or your loved one are not sick or broken. Together we will learn this new language.