It is hard to underestimate the power of support. No, I don't mean a good bra ;) I mean the strength that is gained by spending time with other people who really *get it*.
Before we decided to get J and M assessed I did a lot of reading. I learnt a lot about ASD and related conditions - I felt that I needed to know what was wrong before I began the struggle to get a diagnosis.
Somehow though, even though I was pretty sure I knew the issues - to a degree - I didn't feel comfortable reaching out and finding other people locally that had children with ASD.
I wish I had reached out earlier, but it took CAMHs taking us seriously and agreeing there were issues before I felt genuine. I thought other people whose children had a diagnosis were more "official", that our experiences wouldn't count.
It's not true folks! If you suspect an issue, look on Facebook for a local support group, then go and meet them!
We have met with two groups locally, and I have had online conversations with people in two or three others, and not once have I been shunned because we don't have a diagnosis yet. I have also now made friends with a good number of local home educators whose children have difficulties and differences.
The best bit is what we have found - understanding. I never realised how much that would mean. The understanding that when something goes wrong it's (usually) not malicious, the recognition that sometimes the boys do *odd* things, that sometimes they need a bit more time, or space.
It makes me think of :
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . ."”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Only in this case it's sharing the adventures, quirks and oddities of our children.
It is good to hear that other peoples children do the things M and J do - the things that drive me mad - because that shows those things are a feature of their issues, not naughtiness.
It is great to get to know home educators whose children have oddities too - in some of them I can see what would have happened if M and J had gone to school, in others I can see issues developing that we have overcome, in yet others I can see what might be coming our way. In every case it is an awesome feeling to listen, to share and to be listened to, because this can be a tough road. With a good support group around us it needn't be a lonely road.
Each of us has a different perspective on our children, different experiences to share, different challenges to overcome, but together we really are stronger.