Should you join a support group?
If you have not yet joined a local support group or one (or several) online support, I suggest that you do so. I am of the belief that no one person should walk this (Autism) path alone, believe me, I tried and it’s lonely and depressing having no one else to share your experience as a parent/guardian of a child with special needs. I was apprehensive about joining support groups because, well, I’ll be honest; I’m not all that interesting in person. I don’t really like to speak with people, I’m not even sure I enjoy speaking with people. I’m pretty sure people annoy me. I find myself uncomfortable and I worried that I would spend the entire time having to think of some cute and funny introduction and after that awful part was over, I would spend the rest of time scratching my face because I’m sure spiders scale my cheeks only when in meetings. I didn’t think they would have much to offer me. I didn’t want to sit in a group with other parents talking about our kids, I spend far too much time with my kids, I didn’t want my short window of adult interaction to be spent talking about the small humans I birthed. I wanted to escape my parental duties sheesh! One day, I was like, “I’ll go.” There was no moment of enlightenment or some kind of event that led to my attending a meeting, I just said, I’ll go, and I went. I don’t know what made me give it a shot, but I’m glad that I did. In the year that I have been attending local Autism/Special Needs groups, I have connected with the parents from the start, we are linked by Autism, and this is a bond that I cherish deeply. A collection of adult humans, my fellow Autismoms and AutismDads (AutisGrandmas/Grandpas, Guardians, etc), who just “get it.” They don’t care that my son hops and screams around the room and sometimes licks chairs. They don’t judge me or him. They look at me with loving eyes, “my son does that too.” Or when my youngest is too hyped up, over-stimulated and jumping in chairs and laps, proclaiming that no one likes him, and I’m three seconds away from channeling my inner Silva and putting the child into some kind of submission hold. They still don’t care…”let him go,” they say, “let him do this thing, it’s okay.” They don’t care if my kids steal their food from their plates (or from their mouths), not that that is something that anyone should be okay with, but you get what I’m saying. Seriously, hearing the words, “it’s okay” when I’m spending my days telling my kids that what they’re doing is not okay, feels like my having those folks in the prize patrol van at my home and telling me I’m set for life. It feels that good.
I feel good about my new friends and my new groups, however every single one of those groups to which I belong meets once per month…and I’m needy and require a continuous stream of support, assistance, and guidance. This once a month thing soon proved to be problematic for me. Should I ever decide to form my own group, I’m shooting for once a week meetings, perhaps. In the meantime, in between time, I have discovered the online support group.
I do enjoy the online support group(s), not as much as I do the local ones. Where I at first thought I was going to hate the face to face interaction, I now prefer that over the distance of the online support group. I can get jiggy with the fact that I can “meet” so many people from all over the world online. I enjoy the conversations to be had with those from Denmark or Australia. There are groups with 50,000+ members, so any kind of question you have, more than likely, you’re going to find the answer you’re looking for and then some, if you don’t have to sift through days of bday posts. I do think that while the quest for information and resources in the online support group can yield fruitful results, I think that the chance that they do not give you the goods is pretty high as well. People from all over the world, with varying resources available to them, different insurance laws, schools, etc. can make for finding just what you need problematic, but you could just seek out those who reside near you, or, and this happens far more often than your getting geographically specific, someone will be kind enough to look up some information for you.
There is a downside to the larger groups that exist on a medium such as Facebook, your post(s) can get lost in the mix of birthday shoutouts, the oh so popular meme posts, and the posts that mocks some other post and the posts that mocks that post that mocks that first post (Crazy huh? That’s a level of crazy I have yet to reach and I’m pretty out there). Social media allows for the kind of anonymity that can sometimes bring out the worst in individuals. The stuff we’d say online we may think twice about saying in real life. Online support groups are filled with far more drama than that of the local support group. Text conversations make for difficulty deciphering tone, intent, and sarcasm, that is also the cause of a lot of drama as well. Clique-esque behavior is not just for high school, it’s exhibited often online. All in all, I enjoy the online support group(s). I just seek out the ones that work for me and nix the ones that do not. If you have not yet joined a support group, of the online or local variety, give it a go. If you feel as though you don’t really need the support, go for the conversation, the adult interaction, the wealth of information provided, the free childcare (for many of the local ones), or just to get yourself out of the house. If you’re anything like me, you look forward to times when you are out of the house and the destination isn’t therapy, a doctor’s appointment….or friggin’ Walmart.
Extra Glaze: Facebook Autism Groups
There are so many other groups on there, just search them out and join!