Last evening I attended another great session hosted by Alberta Health Services through the Community Education Service program (free events). The presentation, titled; Re-Story-Ing Hope: My Experience of Mothering A Child with Asperger's Syndrome, was given by a mom who took her life experiences and used them as a stepping stone to becoming a social worker who now helps other families deal with their children with unique needs.
One theme in Leanne Shannon's presentation (www.re-story-ingfamilyservices.com) that resonated with me was one of isolation. When you have a child with any special issues- medical or behavioural, you often feel isolated as you are having such a different family experience than others. For example, you may not be able to spontaneously join other families for outings. It seems that only those who walk the same path can truly "get it". I think there is a deep human need to feel connected with others. By sharing our stories we can connect with others having similar experiences and hopefully help them feel less isolated. Creating your own community will be worth the effort.
Shannon spoke of how her parenting experience changed when she stopped seeing her son as "broken" and saw his unique perspective and strengths. This is a tough transition for parents who are investing herculean effort to help their child fit into our existing society. However, the payoff of letting your child lead can open your heart and mind to new possibilities.
The concept of a person being broken reminded me of a great book, The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon. Although fiction, it is obvious that the author has direct experience of people with autism. The sci-fi book deals with our ideas about normalcy, identity and choice. It is a great read, even if you have no interest in knwoing more about the autistic mind.