On my soapbox for one moment.

I read a lot of blogs. I mean A LOT. Probably too many (I think my husband would say scratch the “probably”). But I do it for a reason. In my constant struggle to become a better parent – maybe a more understanding parent – I search out others who are experiencing what I am and try to learn from their successes and lessons learned.

I read all these blogs because the mainstream parenting magazines just don’t fit my family anymore. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked one of them up with the teaser “Tips to help your picky eater!” and just put it down laughing. I need the “tips for helping your kid who will only eat crunchy orange food off of a green plate and has to drink his smoothie through a green straw!” Not surprisingly, that’s not the headline in next month’s Parents magazine.

However, it is the headline in many of the blogs I read. In addition to the amazing live and in person support group I have, these writers have become my guide through my everyday struggles. These mothers and fathers live what I live, and through our blogs and comments we share advice, ideas, and encourage each other to press on another day. Because it’s about our kids. We know that we aren’t medical experts, but we have been through enough to help others try not to reinvent the wheel.

But I’ve noticed lately a weird trend in some of the blog comments I’ve been reading. Things are starting to get nasty. Personal. People attacking the character and background of other bloggers. I’m not going to link to any of the personal attacks here because I don’t want to give them any more attention than they’ve already received. But it’s mean and unnecessary, and in many times there just to incite the other readers. Is that really what we’re all about?

Now I haven’t been writing for very long, so maybe this has been happening for a while and I’m just naive. I know that the autism community is divided on many issues – from causes to treatments to policy issues – and has been for a very long time. There’s nothing wrong with that. But to call someone a bad person or a bad parent because of what he or she believes or does for their child? Seems out of character for a community that wants their kids to be treated with respect and dignity in the outside world.

My father was the ultimate politician and I learned a lot from watching him. He would sit down with someone who was completely opposed to his position on a particular issue, listen to them carefully and thoughtfully, and then quietly explain his perspective and point of view. It was never about him or about pushing his agenda. He made it about the issue (usually about kids) and helped turn the discussion into a civil exchange of ideas. He would change the debate. More often than not, the person walked away with a new way of looking at the problem. And every time they walked away with a favorable impression of my dad.

Maybe it’s time to reshape our debate …again.

I’m joining with the amazing editors at the Autism Blogs Directory and am taking the next step to help create a new community. They challenged their readers to pick a blog they have never seen, read it, and leave a respectful and thoughtful comment. There are so many wonderful writers out there sharing their stories daily and I know I have a lot to learn from everyone.

So here’s my pick. It’s Laura from “Life in the House that Asperger Built“. I picked it because she’s a mom like me with children on the spectrum. But she’s also on the spectrum herself, as is her husband. I’m getting a unique perspective from her that I haven’t read anywhere yet, and I’m so grateful for that. I look forward to learning so much from her.

I’m hoping that others take up the same challenge. On the right side of my home page I have a long list of my favorite special needs blogs – choose any of them and you’ll find a fantastic writer behind that link. Have a child with sensory processing disorder? Click on ANY of my friends who are part of the SPD blogger network. A child on the spectrum? Click on ANY of my friends under “Websites I Like”.

I know that there are people who read this who don’t have kids with special needs (thank you friends and family who are here because I guilted you into signing up!) I hope you take me up on this challenge too. Are you a runner? Check out my friend Charlotte‘s blog. Interested in parenting and social justice issues? Read my friend Gaetane‘s blog. Or go to Google and type in your favorite hobby, click on blogs, and choose the first one that comes up.

Take a moment to read their latest post and leave a comment if you can. It’s the best way to rebuild our communities and support each other. It’s the best way we can tell each other we’re not alone. It’s the best way to start again.

I’m getting off my soapbox to look Spectrummy Mummy’s latest post. Her youngest was just evaluated by early intervention and I want to know how it went. I want to tell her that I’m there for her no matter what, because on Friday I’ll be in the same boat again. And I need her there with me then.

I think you’ve made your point now.
You’ve even gone a bit too far to get the message home.
Before it gets too frightening,
We ought to call a vote,
So could we start again please?
” – Could We Start Again, Please from Jesus Christ Superstar