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  • Writer's pictureAmy Dougley

Ode to the Families That Came Before Us

Lately I’ve been thinking about the mothers and families of special needs children before there was such a thing called social media.

As a mother, I can’t even begin to imagine doing this journey on my own – without a virtual network. I depend on this inner landscape of friends I’ve found on different platforms from all over the world.

Through the internet, I’ve made some local connections that have developed into genuine real time friendships, and yet there are so  many more that I have never met nor ever will, but I still hold them and their children dear  to my heart. It has served me like an invisible web that lifts me up on the dark days, encourages me during difficult transitions, delights in and cheers my son on with his big and seemingly small gains. We can laugh and joke together about things that ‘typical’ families would never appreciate.  It cuts through all the BS and brings you down to the core of connection. 

Social media has provided me with all kinds of tips and tools, wellness interventions, supplement recommendations, recipes and knowledge related to autism beyond any traditional paradigm  – I can say with confidence that I have learned more from other autism moms than from any professional on this journey. All the reassurances and the ‘me toos’. Oh and hope…. I’ve discovered that life can still be great (and challenging) no matter how things may turn out.

I feel truly blessed to have met so many unbelievably inspiring mothers and families virtually. People I would never have had the opportunity to know had I not had a child on the spectrum, and, if there was no such thing as social media.

But imagine, for a moment (and not so long ago), having no one to share with or to support you emotionally on this journey.  The grief of processing a life you weren’t planning on, including a lack of access, opportunities and a sense of belonging. The thought of some families being ostracized by their communities, children that were never exposed to a  public life- more than we know having  spent their entire lives  at home because there was no place for them to go. I mean, I can’t even imagine, and for those who insisted on carving out space in the world for their kiddos and the stigma you were up against(!) the sheer bravery, I bow to you.

There’s not a lot about social media that I love. In some ways, I wish it was never created. But for this alone – bringing people together who would otherwise be in isolation, if for no other reason, I am forever grateful.

So, to those that did ‘this life’ prior to the World Wide Web, I see you and appreciate what you were up against. I’m sorry that you didn’t get more support and acceptance from community. I thank you for being brave and paving the way with what resources you had, and I accept the challenge of further making this world a better place for our loved ones to thrive.

This opinion piece was provided by Registered Psychotherapist, Karin Francis. Karin provides virtual support to families through Pathways To Hope and combines her professional background with her personal experience to connect with and support the families she helps. For more information, or to book a free consultation, call us at 519.751.0728 or email

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