Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Circle of Friends

Collin having fun in the driveway!

Cooper fell asleep on the floor before I had a time to put him in bed!
Picture not related to post, but had to put some in since I finally have a camera again!

My friend Jena and I started an aspergers/high functioning autism support group in our community. Initially, we invited a few moms we knew had children on the spectrum. But then our group was publishing in the Indiana autism newsletter and we received thirty inquiry emails in one day. We were overwhelmed and unprepared for the response, but desperate to provide a respite for so many moms in dire need of support.

Last night the group met at my house. We began the meeting with introductions, descriptions of our child(ren), his (or her) diagnosis, temperament and concerns.

It took almost two hours to circle the room. The stories were each unique, but similar in many critical ways: social impairments, issues at school, motor delays, etc. Some of the stories were hilarious (quirky kids can be pretty funny!). Some of the stories were heartbreaking.

One mom's story will always be planted in my mind. She has a 15 year old autistic son about to embark on his journey into high school. We all know how challenging high school social pressure can be, but when you have a "special need" the experience can be devastating. My heart ached for this mom as she talked about current problems and fears for the future (i.e. driving, living independently, etc.) Tears rolled down her cheeks as she was speaking and the weight of caring for and loving a special needs child seemed to appear all over her face. I started to see her as words: "brave," "strong," and "amazing." I wondered how many people know her and don't truly know all she is going through. I hope more people compliment than criticize her, and that she is hugged more than hurt.

At the end of the evening, a multitude of emotions were swirling through my brain. But, mostly I was grateful. Grateful that we all were brought together. Grateful that there are other people shouldering the same challenges, finding their way, celebrating successes big and small and embracing a life they didn't expect but would never trade.

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