A beautiful African proverb says ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ and never a truer word has been spoken. But, given that so few people even know their neighbours nowadays, the networks we create for ourselves need to be as strong as a community, as helpful as a village, as supportive as a town and as loving as a major metropolis.

So why do we need to look to others to provide strength, help, support and love? Simple, we are parents of ASD/Aspie girls and we need more love and support than most people, we need that NETwork around us that can take the strain, provide a very strong shoulder and sometimes just listen when things get too tough.

I count myself as very lucky that I have my fabulous rocks, I have my NETwork (see what I did there?), those who catch me when I fall, dust me off, and put me the right way up again. I have those people around me who can accept the ‘difference’ that is our life, who never run in the opposite direction when worry comes-a-calling. They are not fair-weather friends and family, they are all-weather experts. They may be scattered all around the country, all around the globe even, but I know that they are there and often, that is enough. I have my long distance love-senders and I have my on-call bestie who will literally drop what she is doing and come and get me if needs be. We have grandparents who adore our little girl so much that they are travelling this twisting, turning path with us, loving, caring, supporting, finding their feet and learning alongside us. We have mates who take the quirky, bizarre stuff in their stride and always see our darling girl for the marvel that she is.

Yes, you lose some people who you thought would always be part of our support system but hey, when the going gets tough, some people just can’t hack it.

One of the nicest things about the NETwork is that it isn’t just the usual suspects, a supportive person can come in many guises and for our daughter, those people add an extra knot of security. The lady in the school shop who discusses ad nauseum the benefits of a new rollerball pen that has come in stock, the café worker who remembers my daughter’s order and she feels confident enough to blether away to, our tortoise-owning neighbours who always get our daughter to care for them when they are away, the other whippet owners who stop and chat and answer her 20 questions about their hound. All these people build up a supportive NETwork that will benefit our lovely girl in the future, each interaction that is kind, supportive and generous, helps her to develop and feel the world is not quite so scary…

So, if you ever feel alone, if you ever feel that no one understands or the tsunami of emotion is getting too much for you, turn to your NETwork in the broadest sense, support sometimes comes when you least expect it and from the most unlikely source – keep looking and you will find it.

2 thoughts on “NETwork

  • July 12, 2016 at 11:36 am

    You know I admire your spirit and commitment to improve the lives of families and their experiences of autism, especially girls and women and I support your work, COTL! So, I hope you don’t mind me saying I was a bit, um, uncertain, about your phrase: ‘we are parents of ASD/Aspie girls and we need more love and support than most people’ and I’ve had to think about why. I think it’s because parents of all children face challenges of many kinds; parents of children with special needs, we know and the evidence supports, are likely to have more challenges to face, including social isolation, stigma, anxiety over their child’s developmental milestones, lack of confidence and so on. And autistic families have reported to the NAS that they tend to stop going out as a family, experience social isolation because of lack of support, lack of accommodation in social and public spaces, judgement and condemnation. It’s the families, isn’t it, that need that added love and support. So, not just you as parents, but your girl. Maybe it’s not even a case of more love, just understanding and acceptance within society. If our girls are being received within society as equals and able to access all the rights and privileges taken for granted by most, then as parents, our challenges will be no more onerous than any other parent’s. That is sadly often not the case and that needs to change. It’s not that as parents we need more love, it’s that we need our girls to be better understood, better supported, better accepted. And we do indeed need each other, we need that peer support, the recognition of our anxieties and concerns, the sharing of our insights and our achievements too. I also love that you mention the many ways life can be made so much easier and more rewarding by small simple acts of understanding and kindness from ordinary people we meet in our daily lives, that to me describes the love we all need, in action! 🙂

  • July 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Cat, YES, you have hit the nail on the head, for love, read compassion, for support, read understanding. We (the family, parents and child) need those around us to nurture, care and support. We need people to fundamentally try and understand. All I can hope is that people are kind and warm towards my daughter, they appreciate her for who she is and see her difference as the wonderful gift it is. Thank you for making me think about the comment – I appreciate it x

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