Thursday, June 23, 2011

Autism Moms: A Camaraderie of Soldiers

Yesterday I took The Boy to his last "official" session of sensory gym for the school year.  There's a male therapist there who jokingly refers to the waiting room as "The Women's Group."  Because the mothers in the room talk, gossip, complain (usually about The Board of Ed), exchange advice, laugh and sometimes we cry. In the last year, I had become close to two mothers in particular.  Every week, they were there to listen to our Turning 5 saga, to lend support, to listen.  And it was comforting having these conversations without having to stop to explain a term or an acronym.  These moms - got it.

Anyway - yesterday I had to say goodbye to Liz and her daughter, Izzy.  Izzy was moving on to another school and would no longer require the services of the sensory gym.  Her new school had an OT and sensory gym on site.  Every week, upon seeing me Izzy would walk up to me and ask to touch my earrings.  Yesterday, I made sure to wear my favorite pair - I knew it would make her happy.  At the end of Izzy's session, I hugged Liz goodbye and wished Izzy luck on her first day of school.  I told Liz I'd miss her and that I'd keep in touch.  Maybe we'll meet for coffee, I said, I want to hear about Izzy's first week at her new school.  

Yesterday also got me thinking about the two other mothers (Judy and Caroline) that I'd gotten close to this year.  The mothers who toured and applied to the same schools I did.  Judy's son attends the same school as The Boy.  The started out in the same EI class.  And Caroline, I met at one of the tours.  During the tours, I'd run into the same parents, their faces may have been different but the expressions always the same: worried, concerned, stressed out, tired, anxious, frustrated and still just the slightest bit hopeful.  I remembered Caroline because she looked like someone I knew.  We exchanged emails during one of the tours and since then every few weeks or so, we'll exchange an email.  It was the same with Judy.  We'd text or email to "check in."

And even this blog site and my facebook fan page.  The support and words of advice that I've received from other moms, moms going through the Turning 5 process and the Turning 5 veteran moms.     

I needed that extra support. I'm grateful for it.  It was a comfort to know that other mothers were feeling all the things that I was feeling.  That I am not alone.

Recently I came across an article entitled "Autism Moms Have Stress Similar to Combat Soldiers" and it's true.  And similar to the stress of soldiers, autism mothers also share a soldier's sense of camarderie.  I think our bond is different than a typical friendship. Aside from being mothers, autism links us together.  And as much as we may value our indivual friendships (outside of the autism community), our bond is necessary.  Our "women's group" is vital to our sanity.  Because unless you've been through through the trenches of autism, battling the Board of Education, you have no idea what it's like to stomp in our combat boots.

So thanks to every mom that helped me get through this last year.

Just as soliders have a creed, so should we.  This is my adaption -
I feel like the Private Benjamin of Autism Moms - a frivilous woman walking into a committment on a whim and discovered, it's much harder than she ever imagined.  But in the end - Private Benjamin kicks butt! 

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.

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