Hi Aspierations Friends,
Last Tuesday our family attended a meeting of the Autism Society of Washington, Southwest Washington (Clark County) chapter. This was their annual meeting where they held an election of officers and discussed possible events for later in 2011.
The people that showed up at the meeting all seemed quite friendly, dedicated and professional, however the turn-out was much smaller than what I had anticipated. I had thought there would be upwards of 50 and it was actually closer to about a dozen.
The evening started off with a bit of a snafu. There was supposed to be childcare available and when we arrived at the location that the event was held, it turns out that there must have been some sort of miscommunication between the society and Innovative Services Northwest because no-one was available to watch the boys.
Bringing the kids along to the meeting to begin with was not a preferred choice but we don't have regular respite care and it's hard to get a babysitter on school nights. We thought we'd be prepared by asking Justin to bring along a few books and since Ryan is pretty easily entertained, we figured he'd run around and play with the toys and equipment they had at the facility.
Certainly we didn't expect the boys to have to sit in a meeting room at a table with us for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Fortunately we had some paper for Ryan to draw on and along with a pen from Mom and a red marker borrowed from another attendee, he kept himself fairly occupied. Granted that red marker ended up on the paper, the table, a book, Ryan's legs, pants and one of the meeting room walls (oopsie!!!) but there are so many worse things that could have happened.
When Ryan needed a sensory break, he'd just get up and go outside of the room with John and head down the hall entertaining the rest of us in the room with his melodic chirps of excitement. The boys' behavior overall was awesome and although I'd love to attribute it to my amazing parent skills, I'll give the boys their credit and God his credit too. Once I found out there was no childcare, I did a lot of quick praying that all would work out well with no wildly embarrassing situations. Mild I can handle...
We had gotten a number of emails in advance about this meeting and although we knew that there was another support group meeting in Vancouver that was running the same night, we thought since this was an annual meeting and had a link to the national Autism Society (one of the items of concern discussed), it was the more important of the two to attend.
We had attended the ASW SW summer picnic in July, a back to school meeting in late August and also their holiday party in December. All three events had pretty decent attendance, so why when there was something as important as an annual meeting did very few show up?
The truth is that if other autism families are similar to ours, it's hard to get out on school nights and even if you do have childcare, you risk throwing your kids off their routine. For self-employed parents like me, long hours are the norm. Many days are physically exhausting. I realize in the area in which I live, a lot of families are blessed to only have one parent working (by choice) but when John and I moved here four years ago we came in at the peak of the real estate market and the peak of our own personal business. Now we seem to be near the bottom of both, although I faith things will turn around. I keep treading water and finding a way and pray each day...
I believe the reason other events were so well attended was because the attendees saw personal value and benefit. I remember a long time ago when I was working in sales in the Silicon Valley, I attended a seminar that presented a variety of techniques to help one become a stronger sales professional and a more successful person in daily life. It revolved around the concept of WIIFM (pronounced Whif-Im) or "What's In It For Me?"
Simply put, if you're going to try and market, sell or persuade someone to take action or respond positively to something you are presenting, whether it be in business or even personal life, you will be much more likely to achieve your goals if you practice asking relevant questions, engaging in active listening and showing the person you are trying to sell what is in it for them.
This holds true when you're trying to sell, ask someone for a date or recruit volunteers to donate their time to a project or committee.
The reason I mention this is that the Autism Society of Southwest Washington is looking for volunteers to help out. Perhaps their board meeting was sparsely attended because people were afraid they'd be given a sales pitch to join a committee, take a leadership role or give up some of their time. No-one likes to feel pressured into doing this kind of stuff.
When I was in the meeting, I asked about the demographics of the group. I was willing to try and assist in recruiting new members or helping to promote their events online through my blog or Facebook or social media, however in order to do so, I wanted to know what their objective was, who was their target base and what would be the value to becoming a part of this organization. There are a number of different autism support groups in the Vancouver / Portland area and I was curious what set this one apart. At this point, I need to do further research because sitting in on just this one meeting did not provide the answers I was seeking.
I can say that the people serving all seem like dedicated, caring individuals. Most were parents of a spectrum child or adult, a couple like myself were also spectrum travelers. A few were involved from the teaching side and wanted to know how to better serve the children and parents in their schools. It seemed like quite a few were involved in a variety of different volunteer projects.
If you want to learn more about the Autism Society of Southwest Washington, here is a link to their website below:
If you are in the Clark County area, there is also a good link to local resources for families who have children with autism.
I have been pondering over the past couple of months what would be the best use of my time in promoting advocacy and empowerment for those on the autism spectrum and the families, friends, educators and caregivers who support them.
I have a tendency to want to do so many different things... but then daily life with the kids and lots of work happens. Stuff happens. Business challenges present themselves. Health challenges pop up. Relationship challenges surface. I end up finding myself doing my best on some days just to tread water and keep my head above the surface.
Aspierations readers, are you involved in any way with autism advocacy or do you volunteer at school, in church groups or local organizations?
I find myself wanting to do all these things... but then realization hits that I don't have enough time in the day and adding more to my plate just overstuffs me. I am a full-time mom of two children on the autism spectrum, I own a business which is more than full-time hours, I am on the spectrum myself with my own health issues and I am currently struggling with financial and family issues. Yet, I feel that God is calling me to do more... and I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I just haven't found a way yet to manage it all better.
If you're a superwoman or superman, supermom, superdad, supergrandparent, superteacher or supervolunteer, how do you balance your time? What are your tricks? How do you find life balance? I'm curious to know... and I'm sure that other blog visitors would be too.
Thanks for stopping by my blog. I realize it wasn't as well-directed as many of my others but it's just one of those nights when I'm doing freeflow writing and letting what comes out of my head be what I publish.
Best wishes in your daily journey,