SILVER SPRING, Md., December 5, 2011 — Twitter is a mystery to a lot of people. They don’t understand why people love it or how people use it. There are many in the autism parenting community, however, who love Twitter for the support and sense of community an immediate online conversation with people—sometimes strangers—all over the world can bring.
If you’re an autism parent and you’re on twitter, you have probably seen the hashtag #youmightbeanautismparentif floating through your tweetstream. (New to twitter? Find out what a hashtag is at Twitter’s help center.) You might have sent a few of these tweets out yourself. It all started back on November 20, when Jenny Herman (@manyhatsmommyMI) and Elise Ronan (@RaisingASDKids) created the hashtag almost by accident.
Herman wrote a tweet about an autism mom she found particularly funny on twitter: “I think @BobbiSheahan should start an autism comedy circuit. Maybe we should get a round going here: ‘You might be an #autism parent if…’”
Ronan jumped in by writing a tweet with the “youmightbeanautismparentif” hashtag (a la Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if…”) and, as she says, “Them’s all she wrote.”
Two weeks later, the hashtag is still going strong, with tweets both funny and heartfelt being added every day. “It’s really amazing that it has caught on so much and has lasted so long,” says Ronan. “I see people from all over the world using the hashtag. You find not only is the world smaller than you think, you find that the autism world is a wonderful, supportive place and that others are truly willing to be there for each other too.”
Herman, who didn’t like Twitter the first time she tried it, now says that watching the hashtag grow has been exciting. “I’m really glad that we are all finding new friends to follow and chat with. Most of us find more support online than in ‘real life.’”
Anyone can see the entire collection of tweets that have been written using the #youmightbeanautismparentif hashtag, but here are some attention grabbers found in the tweetstream over the past two weeks:
@MrsSGMKenyon: #youmightbeanautismparentif you have said “I love you” a thousand times to your child and cried for joy the one time they said it back
@TannersDad: #youmightbeanautismparentif your Will only has four words: Please Protect my Child
@squashedmom: #youmightbeanautismparentif you think that neurotypicality is HIGHLY overrated.
@hollyrpeete: #youmightbeanautismparentif you are amazed at how much more compassionate kids can be than their parents
@anoellerivera: #youmightbeanautismparentif your heart skips a beat (or 10) if the school calls during class time.
@SusanSenator: #youmightbeanautismparentif you think someone who says “artistic” is mispronouncing things.
@Stimey #youmightbeanautismparentif you consider your kid’s epic spinning session in a fast food restaurant to be an exercise in autism awareness.
@LaliQuin: #youmightbeanautismparentif u’ve held your head a little bit higher during a public meltdown & thought: I dare U 2 say something.
@loumelgarejo: #youmightbeanautismparentif You have restrained yourself from punching an elderly person for telling you to control your child.
@Autismville: #youmightbeanautismparentif You are afraid of dying, but not for the traditional reasons.
@JenTroester: #youmightbeanautismparentif you lost a bunch of friends bc they don’t even try to understand
@trydefyinggrav: #youmightbeanautismparentif you look to friends w/older kids to tell you “it gets better” then turn to those w/younger kids to say the same
@TamiWheatley: #youmightbeanautismparentif you wake to find your child, and the house, covered in unknown substances due to science experiments :/
@myautisticson: #youmightbeanautismparentif you have learned to love your child for who they are, rather than who they should be. Best lesson ever!
@autismfather: #youmightbeanautismparentif one moment, you feel completely alone & the next, you’re part of a large, passionate & supportive community.
@ghkcole: #youmightbeanautismparentif you have nightmares about bday parties
@benpaechter: #youmightbeanautismparentif you tell them that they’ve misunderstood other’s intentions—but secretly wonder if they’re just very perceptive
@dragonslayrmama: #youmightbeanautismparentif you dream of a place where everyone “gets” your kid.
@trishpip: #youmightbeanautismparentif you see communication where others see behavior.
@diaryofamom: #youmightbeanautismparentif you’ve discovered that ‘family’ need not be defined by blood.
@spectrummymummy: #youmightbeanautismparentif your husband told you you were addicted to this hashtag, and you responded, “no, I’m perseverating.”
Reflecting on the past couple of weeks, Jenny Herman says, “I think #youmightbeanautismparentif is a great example of how the autism community can get together, forget about difference of opinion on treatment, therapy, causes, etc., and just show each other that we all understand.”
“It doesn’t matter how you treat your child’s symptoms or what caused their autism,” she says. “#Youmightbeanautismparentif you just need someone to listen.”
Jenny Herman blogs at Many Hats Mommy and has two young children, including a 6-year-old with Asperger’s. Elise Ronan has two young adult children with Asperger’s and is a moderator at The Coffee Klatch, hosts a Wednesday morning radio show through Special Needs Talk Radio called Raising ASD Kids and Teens, and blogs at Raising Asperger’s Kids.
Jean writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey, where she has written a couple of her own #youmightbeanautismparentif tweets. Read more of Jean’s work at Autism Unexpected in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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