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Parent-to-Parent Support – It Will Change Your Life

What is support? As a verb it means:

  • To bear all or a part of the weight of, hold up.
  • Give approval, comfort, or encouragement.

 

When families first call an Autism Resource Specialist, we encourage them to get involved with a local support group, such as the ASNC Chapters. Why do we do this? My perspective is that it’s so important to find that support and community for your journey.

In my 32 years of living in NC, I have received support, comfort, and encouragement from the Autism Society of North Carolina. In addition to the resources my daughter received, including Camp Royall and a day program, I as a parent received support and encouragement through the local Chapter in my region. At the time of my daughter’s diagnosis, the rate of incidence was 1 in 10,000. Until my family moved to NC in 1989, we had not met other families who were walking this same journey. One of the first things I looked for was a parent support group for parents of children with autism. This led me to find the Autism Society of NC-Guilford County Chapter.

This group of parents soon became my second family. We shared stories, heartbreaking moments of frustration and sadness, grief over what may never be, but the most important thing we shared was friendship and community and hope. We were able to feel safe in this community of autism because we understood each other. There were things we could say to each other that we could never say to our families or friends. I was able to learn how to advocate more effectively, become more educated in what rights I had as a parent, and network with other families on resources and support.

Now here I am, over 30 years later. The bonds I’ve made and the friendships I built remain with many of these families after all these years. It is an unspoken pact that we share. A badge of honor for going through some of the most challenging times in our lives. It has prepared us for future trials, knowing that we have endured so much before, we can certainly do it again, with the help of our autism village.

So why in this age of technology, where we can get information immediately through our fingertips, would we need to interact with other parents/families? My reply is simple, why not? Having another parent “give approval, comfort, or encouragement” when you feel as though you cannot bear this burden is so valuable. Seeing the faces of like-minded individuals who get you and your child and sharing your stories with other parents will help you realize that you are not alone on the journey. A support group provides community and deep friendships that will last a lifetime. Some of my closest friends are parents of children/adults on the spectrum. Now when we talk, we share updates on our children and laugh about those past stories we shared. A wise friend once told me that it does get easier, or we get better at dealing with it. I’d like to think it’s a little of both. The sense of community provided by the SUPPORT I received in the Chapter helped me through a lot of challenging years.

For those of you who are just beginning this journey, take heart. You too can have the support of like-minded friends who are travelling along this road alongside you. Please reach out. We are here to listen, to share, and most importantly, to be your support along the way.

For more information:

Autism Resource Specialists

ASNC Chapters and Support Groups

 

Judy Smithmyer can be reached at jsmithmyer@autismsociety-nc.org.

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