Friday, November 17, 2006

feeling supported

I guess because I'm feeling particularly supported today, after spending the afternoon with some RDIing/Homeschooling friends, I wanted tonight's entry to be about finding support.

You might live in an area where nobody's really heard of RDI. We were sort of in that boat when we started. I'd heard of local RDI support groups in other areas of the country and felt jealous, but we didn't have anything like that around here. I didn't want to get involved with the local general Autism support groups, because they were in such a different "place" than I was, and I knew I wouldn't feel supported there, just depressed.

So I turned to the internet. I know that a lot of people will "pishaw" internet relationships as somehow artificial, but in the multitude of RDI e-support groups out there, I found some real connections, some amazing support, and some wonderful friends.

The Connections Center itself has message boards for connecting with other RDI parents, as well as live chats with Drs. Gutstein and Sheely. In particular, Dr. Sheely's Beginner's chat was absolutely invaluable to me for connecting with other RDIing families, and getting my questions answered during my first year or so of doing RDI.

Then there are the Yahoo groups. There are groups for general RDI support (you can find some of those listed on The Connections Center site), groups for folks in particular areas of the country (some of which allow members from outside their base area), groups for folks using particular consultants. There are general homeschooling groups, groups for folks homeschooling special needs kids, groups for people homeschooling kids with autism, and groups for families homeschooling using particular approaches, or curricula, or with common religious beliefs. There didn't seem to be a group to support parents doing both RDI and Homeschooling, so I started one (RDI-Homeschoolers). I thought that maybe a dozen or so folks might like to chat about incorporating RDI and Homeschooling. I vastly underestimated the interest -- as of this week, there are 425 members. I'm also a member of an e-group for families using Enki Education, and a couple of smaller private support groups for specific interests related to RDI and/or homeschooling.

As for internet friendships not being "real", all I can say is BULL. Some of the people I hold most dear are other RDI/Homeschooling parents that I met initially on-line. Kyra and I met in person at the 2-day workshop (and later at the 4-day workshop, and more and more often as time goes by), after initially getting to know each other first on an RDI support list, and then via exchange of private emails. A whole bunch of us from the RDI-Homeschoolers e-group met up at the Annual RDI Parent's Conference this past summer, and it was as if we'd known each other our entire lives. Those friendships that you forge on-line can be as real as any that you make via live support groups. And those people are just as supportive. Maybe more so, since you have 24 hour access to them via the internet!

RDI started catching on a bit in our state last year, and it seemed like there might be enough interest to start a local support group. The Connecticut RDI Parent Support Group was created and a few meetings were held, though there wasn't enough sustained interest to keep it going a the time, so it took a break over the summer. But in the few meetings we had, I hooked up with a very cool family that uses the same consultant we do, who have become friends of ours, and their son a potential future Dyad Partner (a crucial step in the RDI process) for Jacob. So we ended up finding some support even though it intially seemed unlikely! However, a new meeting of the group has been scheduled for next week, and there are now even more families, and a couple of consultants-in-training, interested, so perhaps this time it will fly. (If anyone wants more information on this group, please leave me your email address in a comment and I'll put you in touch with the organizer of the group.)

I tried out several local homeschooling support groups over the past several years, never finding one that was quite the right fit until CT-CHEER (Connecticut Cooperative of Homeschool Educators East of the River) organized this past year. Several groups combined to form a larger group, where there are no officers or any one person "in charge", so all members are welcome to organize and advertise classes, program, and field trips. I've connected with several nice local families this way, and have particpated in a handful of fun events with other homeschooling families. Still, the group was large and wasn't quite what I had in mind for ongoing, intimate support. The few other members with children with Autism were pursuing different avenues of treament (or no treatment), and while I enjoyed chatting with them and sharing expriences, I craved the sort of support that I felt that I needed.

So I started talking with a few homeschooling friends with kids at similar developmental levels as mine, and we started talking about forming our own homeschooling co-op. And today we met informally as a group for the first time, to let the kids get to know each other, and to discuss what we'd like to see in a co-op. I think it's going to work! We adults were all very enthusiastic about this, and the kids got along really well and had a blast together. The group is very small (5 kids), and all the kids have special needs (well, except for Zoo Boy, tho an argument could be made for him in that category anyway, given that he's already informally getting some OT and help with his speech at Jacob's Sensory Integration sessions. Zoo Boy most certainly does not have Autism. But I also don't think I'd go so far as to call him "typical" either. I think "unique" is a better description!), and those of us with ASD kids are doing RDI with them, and two of us are doing Enki Education (and the other two are at least interested in it). So I think we're going to have a groovy sort of RDIish Enkiish totally rockin' good time!

In summary, my message for tonight is -- FIND YOURSELF SOME SUPPORT. Real support. Not just people patting you on the back saying "poor you" or sitting around commisserating about how hard it is to do this. Yup, it's hard. But get up and get proactive about finding the right support for YOU and your situation. If it doesn't exist, create it! Without support you can't stand, never mind fly! Posted by Picasa


At 8:18 AM, Anonymous kyra said...

YAY! for support! YAY for our new group! YAY for you!!!!!

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Bea said...

Love your last sentence!!!

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Jenny Althoff, certified RDI consultant said...

Your blog wonderful. I hope to tell as many RDIing families about what you are doing. You've made the process real and managable.


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