Autism community finds support within the blogosphere

Published: Tuesday, April 23 2013 1:25 p.m. MDT

A screenshot of Joy Smith's blog, Joy's Autism Blog.

Screenshot

Each April, local businesses and individuals raise awareness for autism during Autism Awareness Month. But thanks to some help from the blogosphere, there is an online community of support 365 days a year.

Autism affects 1 in 88 children, and the need for a supportive autism community is great. Many parents have turned to the Web as a source of strength while raising their autistic child. Autism blogs share stories of the everyday triumphs and heartaches.

In Joy’s Autism Blog, a Missouri-based blogger named Joy Smith recounts her experiences as a mother of four. Two of her children have autism-related disorders.

Her son, 8-year-old Adrian, was diagnosed with autism in 2006. Her daughter, 12-year-old Sanura, was diagnosed with mild Asperger’s syndrome in 2011.

Smith shares stories of the journey of discovering her children had developmental disorders and how she acts as an advocate for autism awareness. Smith has created a network of support by encouraging and responding to questions and concerns other parents may have when raising children with autism.

For some parents, autism is as real is it comes. Several bloggers tackle the feat of writing about real life — developmental disorders and all.

Adventures in Asperger's, operated by dad blogger Tom Hibben, gives a taste of balancing a busy career and family life with an autism spectrum disorder. Hibben’s oldest of three sons was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

While Hibben and his wife, Samantha, find time to manage their three boys, a photography business and Tom’s work as an EMT, Tom Hibben also keeps a blog of the adventures their family has while raising a developmentally challenged son.

Through frank humor and photos, Hibben’s lifestyle-reminiscent blog has become an advocate for the autism world.

Comments on Hibben’s blog express gratitude for telling his story of raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder.

But besides the humor and encouragement comes the real challenge that accompanies caring for autistic children. Blogger Sunday Stilwell shares her unsugarcoated experiences of being a mother of two sons with severe autism on her blog, Adventures in Extreme Parenthood.

"The fact is, it's not all sunshine, laughter and silliness around here. Some days I feel my anxiety level reaching a critical level because there is so much I cannot control in my day to day life as a mom," Stilwell wrote in an April 5 post about autism awareness.

But despite that reality, Stilwell shines as a light to others around her.

"What I can do is seek out others like myself taking it one day at a time and celebrating the milestones as they happen and lifting each other up during the times they do not," Stilwell wrote.

Stilwell's following of more than 600 connects with her because of her relatability, many comments indicate.

"I also appreciate your honesty. It helps remind me of the daily intense struggle the parents of my students deal with 24/7," posted a follower named Claudia. "I don't do much for Autism Awareness month. I am aware everyday … reading blogs like yours helps me to further educate myself. Thank you!"

For more autism blogs, visit the autism blog's online directory.

Emmilie Buchanan is an intern for the Deseret News with Mormon Times. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho. Contact her at ebuchanan@deseretnews.com

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