This is a part of a special series looking at how social media has impacted the lives of its users. This week, the story comes from Karen Wilson.
Every time I hear someone talk about how scary they think being online is, I can?t help but think how different my life would be if I wasn?t so connected online.
From meeting my husband (and moving to Canada), to meeting my former business partner, to eventually connecting with a group of women who have become dear friends ? my online connections are essential to me.
Questions Without Answers
When my son, Brandon, was about 3? his caregiver suggested that we have him?evaluated?for language delays. So we did.
Several months later, the caregiver brought up?motor skills delays. A week later I was meeting with Brandon’s doctor who referred us for a psycho-educational assessment.
The combination of language and motor delays pointed to some sort of developmental disorder, most likely on the autism spectrum, given a strong family history.
From August 2011 until June 2012, I said nothing about this online. I was uncomfortable with the idea of sharing information about my son that might be considered an invasion of his privacy.
Waiting is Stressful
As two, then three, then five months passed with no appointment date, my stress and frustration levels maxed out.
There might have been panicked phone calls to a few different doctors? offices.
Around the same time, I was scheduled to attend Podcasters Across Borders (PAB). The opening keynote was to be Julien Smith, but something came up and he had to cancel at the last minute.
Jason Goldsmith was his meant-to-be (for me), replacement. Jason’s story about communicating with his autistic son gave me hope and the experience inspired me to share.
The week after I attended PAB, I finally wrote about it. I told my story – not my son’s, not my husband’s. I can’t speak for anyone but myself.
It was only part of the story, but it was enough.
Finding Support and Community
I was overwhelmed with the comments, private messages, and emails of support. The words were simple:
“I hear you. I understand. I’ve been through this and it’s so hard.”
Those words made all the difference in the world.
The email that meant the most came from a Twitter acquaintance of mine named Heather.
She sent me an email with every number she has – work, cell, home – and she also encouraged me to come for a play date.
Our boys are just a few months apart in age. We bonded under a cool tree in her back yard while our kids played.
Her little girl – almost two at the time – had been identified as autistic at 20 months and Heather was in full mama bear mode, doing everything she could to get her daughter therapies she needed.
Her action motivated me.
Months later, Heather invited me to go to Starbucks one Saturday night and meet other moms with kids on the spectrum.
Three years later, our little group of four that met sporadically in the beginning has grown to a monthly get-together of 6-10 women.
In between coffee dates, we stay in touch in a private Facebook group ? some even joined Facebook just to participate.
Same Journey, Different Paths
Our lives are very different. Our kids are very different. The challenges we face and needs each of us have are all very different.
But we come together to support each other with no judgment, no expectations – only acceptance. The group reflects what we want for our children, even if that wasn’t the overt purpose.
It?s entirely possible that I would have crossed paths with these ladies and benefitted from their friendship and knowledge if I had never written that blog post three years ago.
However, in opening up and speaking out about our experience, I found a community to connect with, learn from, and grow with right when I needed it most.
Each and every one of these women are essential to my life and I am so grateful to know them.
About the author: Karen Wilson is a mom to Brandon ? the funniest 7-year-old in the world (true story). She shares her life and thoughts at Karen?s Chronicles.
She?s also a freelance writer/communicator who likes to share her thoughts on writing and content marketing with the world.