It Takes an Autism Village


September 13, 2012 by Marj Hatzell

Food, glorious food!

When the going gets rough, the rough get casseroles.

I grew up in a smallish town. When someone died, had a baby, had an injury, etc, folks came calling with food. Lots of it, since we were a family of nine (or more, depending on foster babies and other folks my parents were trying to help). People from our neighborhood, church or athletic club dropped off huge casseroles in gigantic aluminum pans to reheat and eat.  Bringing food to folks in time of need is one of the more common comfort measures, for sure. There’s a reason they call it comfort food, y’all.

I now live in a tiny town nearby the smallish town in which I grew up. It’s like Mayberry and folks know one another. When my Dad passed away last December, people brought us food, gift cards and the like as a measure of help. It was much appreciated. This is why my husband and I chose to live in a town, a community, instead of far out in some McMansion or in a more rural area, no matter how much we wanted a bigger house with a shit-ton of acreage.  Close communities are better for kids, in my opinion. And better for families who need support, like those raising children with disabilities.

It’s nice having that kind of support. I do have some in-real-life friends whose children face similar challenges as mine. It’s nice. Strength in numbers, you know?  But for the most part, there aren’t many of us. And it’s hard to find one another.

I got lucky last week. Bug Boy started middle school and true to form, I signed on to co-chair the “Too Stupid to Say No” club, otherwise known as Home and School. I love being involved, honestly, and I love getting to know the staff better. Plus, I’m good at it (not to toot my own horn and stuff. OK I AM TOTALLY TOOTING MY OWN HORN)!  And last week, during a welcome coffee hosted for parents and staff members, I got to talking to another mom. Turns out we have tons in common.  She’s an over-achieving and sleep-deprived volunteer special mommy, too!  So that’s nice. Another special mommy friend is always nice to have.

I’m lucky to have the support of my family. Very lucky indeed. I have friends that have NO ONE. In fact, another friend told me just last evening she’s been away from her kids ONE NIGHT in 17 years. She has four kids, one with significant challenges. She hasn’t been away with her husband in a long time. They have little support from family

This stinks, y’all.

I’m a spoiled brat and I know it. My family helps me and my sister insists I get away for Sleep-and-Eat-Weekends. Twice a year, these days. They rock and it is much appreciated, since it truly recharges our batteries. But many of my friends? NOTHING.

The cool thing is, there’s this great new invention from Al Gore called THE INTERNETS. And on the Internets, folks from all walks of life can find groups of people like themselves. Even the misfits (like me!) can find someone.  True Story!  And parents of kids with special needs. It’s awesome sauce because having other parents to go to for support, encouragement, advice and information is CRITICAL to raising a child with special needs. Other parents who have “been there, done that” to confide in or count on? Priceless. Truly.

So naturally I belong to some parent groups. Mommies who love Attachment Parenting. People who love dogs. And Autism Parents. And the Autism Parents Groups? The most important. Why? Well, Special Needs families often don’t have similar families living in close proximity. So these groups, they become important. They become a place to vent, to ask questions, to share triumphs and sadness.

And recently, well, one of our families had some life-altering stuff happen. Stuff that sucks. And our group? Well, we felt helpless. We wanted to help. We wanted to be there for this family. But geographical locations (such as, other countries and planets and stuff) make it impossible. But, there’s this magical thing on the Internet where folks will band together, in minutes, to help families in need (even though the Internet can also be a scary, scary place). Families who lose loved ones, have house fires, medical crises, you name it. We’re basically strangers. We only know each other by the stories we share online. And yet, we’re there to help.

So this Autism/Special Needs parent group?  We figured out a way to get “casseroles” to this family. A sh*t ton of casseroles. Let’s say hypothetically we found out what one of their favorite restaurants was located. And let’s say, perhaps, that we all chipped in and bought some gift cards to this restaurant. As in, a large amount. Yep. We did that. And it was fun. And it felt good. And it helped a tiny, tiny bit.

The important part?  A community was there to offer support, encouragement and love. Communities are what help us special parents survive, y’all. Without this magical Al Gore invention we’d be isolated and alone, trying to find folks like us for support. I, for one, love The Internets (most of the time). So there you have it.

Virtual Casseroles.

Gosh, I really hope they like casseroles.

27 thoughts on “It Takes an Autism Village

  1. I also love the Internets because how else would I have met you?

  2. dawn says:

    its an amazing set of tubes, these interwebs…

  3. I just realized I didn’t know ANYTHING about the casserole brigade. I feel like such a loser.

    Please DO tell me where to send the $$ so I can help out too!

  4. ProfMomEsq says:

    Why won’t you blog let me like you or follow you? Sadface. I ditto what you said, though. It was a great idea that had a big impact. Thanks for making a sh*t ton of casserole. 😉

  5. jillsmo says:

    I totally want a casserole now

  6. Beth says:

    Mush alert: Beautiful post; love the casserole. How bad could it be when the ingredients are love, support, understanding and virtual hugs — bacon optional.

  7. Alysia says:

    I’m a huge fan of the village and the casserole, virtual or real, bacon or no bacon. There’s something to be said for a community that understands each other and supports each other when we need it most

  8. Bec Oakley says:

    I didn’t know you did that for Jim! That’s awesome. I agree, the internet is such an important source of support. When I was first lost in the diagnosis fog nearly 15 years ago, there was none of that. It was so hard to meet anyone who understood, I really thought that I never would.

  9. J-Nut says:

    I’m afraid I also missed the casserole brigade, but I am so happy to have found amazing support on the interwebs too. Beautiful post, and I’m so glad to know you! (Also if there is a second brigade, I’m in.)

  10. Patty says:

    Such a great post. And I agree with everything you said. I don’t know what I would do without the support of my online friends. I just have no idea. It’s saved me.

  11. Jim W says:

    maybe I should blog post my thank you.

    It helped more than a tiny tiny bit. . .

  12. I like casseroles AND the internet. I even find recipes for casseroles on the internet. I wouldn’t have any friends if it weren’t for the internet. Or casserole recipes for that matter. Yay online community!

  13. Stimey says:

    I like villages, especially special villages. I also like casseroles, especially if they have ham and potatoes in them. I like Jim too. Also, I REALLY like YOU.

  14. Flannery says:

    Is it wrong to be craving some comfort food casseroles right now? Cuz I do.

    You know who’s awesome? YOU are. Totally. Organizing things and stuffs and what-not.

    I guess it’s because you’re all rested up from your sleep and eat weekends. But still. Awesome.

    I heart you, man.

  15. Joanna Waterhouse says:

    I REALLY need an Autism village!

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