Our Special Families Village is a dream that has been growing in my soul since the first day the word Autism was uttered in connection with my son Matthew. I’m not really sure what day it was, it was all a blur, but it was sometime around his 3rd Birthday in 1995. Through the fog I began to see that they child the experts observed and the child I knew were two different people even though they were in the same body. My desperate and sometimes frantic search for information and hope developed into a frustration that gave birth to this dream and to the realization of why this amazing person was brought into my life.
When Matthew was first diagnosed, the Internet was truly in its infancy. Matthew’s father is a Computer Geek (and I mean that as a compliment!) so we were the first ones with a “home computer” and later, the first ones with the Internet. Back then it wasn’t the Information Superhighway, it was more like a country lane but it was still overwhelming. Not so much for the volume but for its “un-user” friendly format. As the Internet grew, information did become easier to access but the volume of information was just huge! I found it very difficult and frustrating to sort and sift through everything to find what I really needed. I wanted to ask questions of Matthew’s care providers but I did not know what I didn’t know and felt frustrated because I didn’t feel like they understood. I felt like everyone’s budget and time was stretched so thin that to even ask for help was a huge imposition.
I felt so alone. My girlfriends tried to support and encourage me and they all had wonderful intentions but someone who has never been told that their child is “different” just doesn’t get it and they won’t. I appreciate my friends support but it is not the same as the empathy from another parent of a Special Needs child.
On my journey, I longed for a place where I could go anytime and type in my question and find the answer. Or find someone who would listen to me and not tell me how busy they were or how tight their budget was. I realized that I wasn’t the only one who was looking for this support and if it was going to happen, I needed to create it. But…how? I knew the Internet could be the perfect vehicle but this was before My Space and the birth of online social networking. I knew that it could be created but that it would take a lot of money to have a computer programmer develop.
But then the internet grew…and grew…and grew… and lo and behold Online Communities sprang up on every corner of the Internet. I knew it was possible. My professional life began to follow a path that brought me into contact with Internet Entrepreneurs and I was able to get a lot of “on the job” experience. I also discovered that I could create this warehouse of information and resources and a support community for free and as it grew it would “pay it’s own way” for improvements and growth. Not only was it possible, it was something that was desperately needed. I knew it would help other families find support and resources and information that otherwise would be unavailable to them. I knew it would help young parents to see possibilities where before they would only see tragedy.
I know it is why Matthew was sent to me and that’s why I’m here.