As the saying goes, it really does take a village to raise strong, healthy, happy, independent, loving, capable, respectful, kind children! Regardless of their diagnosis or abilities, who we surround ourselves with can make the difference between a fabulous life where we’re thriving versus a difficult life where we’re simply surviving.
Our communities matter . . . a lot! Great parents nurture their communities to keep their lives healthy, abundant, full of love, and manageable.
I work hard at nurturing the people in my life. It really matters to me to make the time to call someone I haven’t chatted with in awhile or send an email to just check in. It’s important and worth the effort.
Let me just say that I’ve had to make some incredibly hard choices around who stays in my inner circle and who doesn’t. Let me guess, you have too? Or do you have someone in your inner circle you wish were more helpful? Or less critical?
These choices are so difficult to make sometimes, especially when they involve family of origin.
Having different-brained children (autistic, Asperger’s, etc.) is something I don’t think any of us expected or are ever fully prepared for. We do it. We do it very well in fact. But on some level it seems we’re always striving to do it better or provide more for our children.
Insert your tribe here!!!
It truly does take a village to raise our high-functioning autistic children, or any child for that matter. But we need more respite than others. We need more help than is “typical.” We need relief from the screaming and tantruming we experience so often.
I have heavily depended on people and groups (and animals) time and again to help my children become who they are meant to become . . . and to help relieve me of internal pressure, guilt, dirty dishes, and insane moments.
Oh how I love my tribe!!!
Quick analogy you can use as a guide for creating your community and why:
I remember being in therapy once for myself and I explained that I was feeling completely isolated and desperate. My therapist asked me to think about my life as a table top and that I needed four strong pillars to hold me up strongly.
I had just started AA, so that was one of my main pillars then. I also had a very good friend I could call anytime I was struggling so that was my second pillar. But I had no more pillars and knew I had a lopsided foundation.
I went to work very quickly to find other support pillars. My community that I actively created now makes up most of the pillars of my life.
I’m proud to report that I now work hard to maintain 6 solid pillars of support, for not just myself, but for my children as well.
Who do you need in your community?
Family of Origin vs. Family of Choice
As some of you may have experienced, families of origin can sometimes be more of a challenge than support for our journey with our different-brained kids. Families of origin are those that we’re born into, so this can include parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Hopefully you have a fab family of origin! Sadly, I’ve heard stories about families who would best be limited to a one-day visit once a year, and maybe that would be too much.
But you also have your family of CHOICE! These are the people and communities you choose to hang out with, call to invite over, sit and have coffee with. These are the ones who make all the difference in our world.
For me, family of choice for my tribe most often includes parents of other Aspies I can relate to and feel comfortable around. These are the people who love and accept my son just as he is, and they want and need the same from me. They totally get it!
You need your children! That’s why we’re here together, but I definitely wanted to highlight how dang important our children are in our community. We need to remember they are the reason we work so hard and welcome the people that love and support us.
They are the main part of our community and they are so worthy of our support and respect.
Our cats have been some of the main healers, accepters, and unconditional lovers for my children. My cat of 18 years has laid above Michael’s head at bedtime pretty much every night of his entire life. When we come home from school, Michael says hi to Belle. He is responsible for feeding and brushing all our cats.
I know there have been incredible stories of animals helping out autistic people in ways we could never have dreamed of. Yes to caring for our pets and buying them catnip or extra treats to thank them for being so helpful in our lives!
Great teachers totally make all the difference, don’t they? You can be at a subpar school, and if you get a good teacher, your life is golden! If you get a bad teacher in any school, that right there is gonna make your life nuts until the school year ends or you come to some agreement about how to work together.
If you have a good teacher, I highly recommend you give them little gifts without even needing a holiday–or volunteer if appropriate. That’s the best way I know to maintain and nurture relationships with your child’s teacher.
Heads of School
These are the ones who drive the boats of the schools that our children attend, and man oh man, are they great to have on your team if they understand our journey. Some don’t and I really think they’re just not ever going to help create a more helpful community for us. But we had a head of school that was so kind and loving and approachable, and she was so much a part of our family team.
I still work hard to stay in touch with her and her staff, and my friend and I still bring them coffee and pastries a few times a year, even though we don’t go to that school anymore. See? Community building is critical in my opinion. Because I’ve worked so hard at this relationship, I’m confident that if I called her for assistance she wouldn’t hesitate to help or find someone who could help us.
We have the sweetest child next door who was recently diagnosed with autism. There are times when I’ll be chatting with his mom and she’ll say, “You should start a school so Benny can be with you all day.” It’s sweet because she knows she can call on me anytime she has an issue. Note: She is joking because no, I am not opening a school in my home.
She knows I’ve got her back and that I understand most of what she’s going through. I see how much comfort that provides her and I’m honored to be part of her community.
Therapists – All the Kinds
Therapists become integral parts of our communities! The main therapists we’ve used are occupational therapists, and right now we’re doing some incredible work with our behavioral therapist (I say “our” because she’s working with our entire family).
We’ve been with speech therapists as well. All of these men and women who work hard to help our kids increase their skill sets and develop real-life abilities become another lifeline for our families. They see what our children present to us each day and the helpful ones do what they can to help our lives improve.
Your meds doctor is critical to have a solid relationship with. You probably already know this.
They are the community members that have so much power in your life. Your medications doctor can add stimulants to another med that can make your kid completely jack-jack hopped up. The problem is, you might not even know it’s wrong–because how are you supposed to know?!?! We’re in that office paying insane amounts of money for blips of time, so we’re not even sure what it’s supposed to look like when our children are properly medicated . . . until we actually get there, which in our case was four years into the medication game.
We have a new meds doctor now, and Michael is literally a different person, capable of so much I never would have imagined. I’ll definitely bring in some homemade sugar scrub for him soon.
Our communities are critical to our family’s well-being. I’m recommending you take a little bit of time to connect with those you are in contact with who make your life joyful and happy. Let them know you’re glad they’re part of your community.
And I recommend you start looking for new community members if you feel you’re running low or need to drift away from those who are unhelpful. There are people who want to help and support you in a kind and respectful way. For real.
We’re in this together,
There are more community members we rely on . . . who are they? Who’s your main pillar? Show us your pet who helps your family! Catch up with us below or over on Facebook.