Saturday, December 10, 2011

Building Community One Tweet at a Time

If you’re on Twitter, and maybe even if you’re not (say, if you read Stimey's wonderful article) you may have heard of a hashtag topic marker that has been making the rounds for the past few weeks, even spending some time trending (on days when celebrity gossip yields few juicy items I presume).

It is this one: #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf…  and it has been garnering some amazing responses.

It started as a private joke between two autism-mom bloggers who are also twitter friends: Jenny ( ) and Elise (), a take off on Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if..." humor.

And then, as brilliant ideas often do, it spread like wildfire. People in the autism community noticed, chimed in (what Twitter was made for) because if there’s one thing we autism parents need on a daily basis, it’s a good laugh.

And while some of the tweets were funny in a side splitting way, others were funny with a wince; some were heart touching, yet others a call for help and support.

Here is a small sampling below:

@Stimey: #youmightbeanautismparentif you consider your kid's epic spinning session in a fast food restaurant to be an exercise in autism awareness.

@diaryofamom: #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you've discovered that 'family' need not be defined by blood.

: #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you are filling out forms and your 7 year old points out the mistakes you're making. And she's right!

: #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you carry fidgets, gum & pec cards instead of lipstick and nail files in your purse.

:  #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf trying to get any information out of your child is practically your full time job.

@myautisticson: #youmightbeanautismparentif you have learned to love your child for who they are, rather than who they should be. Best lesson ever!

I caught wind of all this about a week after it had started, when I saw a #youmightbeanautismparentif tweet from a friend and thought YES! And looked in to see what this hashtag was all about.

I added this to the conversation:
@squashedmom: #youmightbeanautismparentif you think that neurotypicality is HIGHLY overrated.

What I found was a community gathering itself again, in a marvelous way. Some people were even joining Twitter just to be a part of the conversation. Jess from a diary of a mom tweeted:

  #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you barely glance at Twitter outside this hash tag cause a) you're out of time and b) all the cool kids are here. 

It made me think about how important community and support are when you’re a special needs parent. I am well aware that we are the lucky ones, we who became parents in this age of awareness and internet connectivity; how even if you live in an isolated rural area, you can now easily find others who really “get it,” who can answer questions, laugh and cry with you.

I think about how hard it was to be a special needs parent in the age when we were told our kids were hopeless, to just shut them away and forget about them, or even worse, that it was OUR fault they were that way.

I can only imagine how hard it must have been when it was considered a shameful secret to have children that weren’t "perfect," and to support and believe in your special needs child was a radical act; and you were unlikely to know anyone at all in the same boat.

I am grateful to those brave pioneers who have come before me, and so thankful to be in the midst of the many amazing, supportive communities I have found both in my city and in the world via the internet.

So every day I check out what’s new in the twitter stream gathered at #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf, grateful that every day brings me new friends who have found yet another place to share the joys and pains of special needs parenthood.

Come join the conversation on Twitter. You can find me at @Squashedmom. Usually adding my two cents daily, even if it’s just...

@squashedmom: #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf you are just too damn tired to think of anything witty tonight, but still need to connect to this community.


Varda writes about "birth, death and all the messy stuff in the middle" on her blog "The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation"  She also tweets as @Squashedmom. Varda is proud to be a Hopeful Parent.


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