Tuesday, May 03, 2011

sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of autism through social media to effectively influence and advocate.

Next week I will be speaking at the International Conference of Motherhood Activism, Advocacy, Agency in Toronto. As I put together my speaking notes, I have begun to realize that the person I define myself as, or rather, my self-identity, is not an entirely accurate reflection of reality.  Am I an advocate or an activist? Am I selling myself short? Or perhaps it is my hesitancy to be involved in the Autism community that is so divided and critical of mothers who "only" advocate and don't do enough for "the cause" that has kept me in the corner, tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Regardless, I am certainly not the person I was when I set out on this journey of motherhood.

As I run down the skills I have had to develop to effectively advocate for Max, I shake my head and have to chuckle. I've always been outspoken (you are completely shocked, I know). But I have also learned how to manage relationships and to figure out ways to get the most out of every person who can help Max and our family. I hope to inspire people to go above and beyond for Max and to expand their thinking when it comes to working with children with Autism. I was even so bold as to inform Max's school principal that he was lucky I was the first parent to enrol a child with Autism in Junior Kindergarten in his school. It has been a challenging year for both Max's teachers, Max, and me, but I sincerely believe we are all the better for it. Future parents enrolling their children with Autism at this school will benefit from Max laying the groundwork and me setting high expectations.

All I've ever wanted was to help Max reach his full potential and give him the tools he needs to live a happy and fulfilled life. Everything else has taken a backseat to this goal, including friendships, career and my own personal needs. As mothers, it is assumed that we will do anything for our children. Mothers of children with Autism do so much more than you can imagine, yet we still beat ourselves up at the end of the day for not doing enough. The Autism community then piles on by telling those of us who are mere "advocates" that we are letting down "the cause".  Imagine if someone who was attacked was told they were letting down those who will be attacked in the future because she has not become a crusader for tougher laws on crime.  It would never happen - but we mothers of children with Autism, who already struggle with more than you could possibly know, we are fair game.

Food for thought for sure.

For those of you who are able, I hope you attend the conference. There are so many interesting speakers and panels packed into 3 days, you won't know where to start! Email me if you are attending so we can meet up for a "beverage".