Stanton Peele's recent post, "What I have learned from writing a PT blog" got me thinking about my own experience here in the Blogosphere. From the day I began my first blog several years ago, I was surprised by the feeling of community I got from readers, commenters and other writers. Mr. Peele's commentary on the contentious tone many readers can take shows how rare that can be. Given that this is Thanksgiving week, it seems fitting that I take some time to express my appreciation for all those who have made my online experience so memorably positive.
When I first began to suspect that I was on the autistic spectrum, it became my mission to learn as much as possible about AS. I read any book I could get my hands on - Uta Frith, Oliver Sacks, Temple Grandin, Maxine Aston, Roger N. Meyer, Liane Holliday-Willey... When that ran out, I turned to the web - where I became increasingly more and more frustrated.
When I first searched for Asperger's, I found only general purpose sites on Autism. What few sites I found which focused on the Asperger's niche, were almost overwhelmingly about children, written from an outsider's point of view. Where were the voices of people like me, I wondered? We didn't just disappear as we hit adulthood. Looking around in my family, I could see Aspergerish traits going back for generations - so where were the stories of the people in those generations? And for that matter, where were the women? We exist - I was proof of that.
So, I started my first blog. If I was frustrated, I figured, so must others be. If I had something to say, maybe that would be helpful to others like me. I didn't know if anyone would be interested, but what could it hurt?
Having seen the types of contentious comments that Mr. Peele describes out there on other blog sites, I knew that I would have to be prepared for those type of reactions - it comes with the territory. But, I was surprised - when the comments started coming, and they were mostly positive and constructive. Some were simple and to the point "Thank you," "Love your blog," "Just found your blog and think it's great." Others were more involved, but generally positive.
I began to look forward to checking my e-mail each day, to see what new comments were being added, what new facet another commenter had added to one of my posts. I realized that I was learning as much from them, as they said they were learning from me. It became a two way street. Some days, a reader would write that one of my posts had prompted a catharsis in them...another day I would be struggling with something, having a bad day, and something a reader wrote would completely turn that day around.
When I was invited to blog here at PT, to a wider audience - I wondered what lay in store for me. I wondered if the change in focus would affect the balance of negative and positive responses. Overall, though, I have found the same warm reception here, as I had on my original site. Some visitors wrote about how they enjoyed learning about Asperger's, others have talked about how it has helped them to understand their children, friends, spouses, etc. Parents and grandparents have written to ask how they can help their children/grandchildren. Most gratifying has been the opportunity to interact with fellow PT bloggers, and other professionals in the field.
In the months I've written for PT, I have become a fan of the site, not only a blogger. I enjoy reading the other blogger's posts as much as I enjoy posting my own. I have learned a great deal in reading. Writers here on the site, like Mr. Peele, are not afraid to tackle the tough issues (and sometimes suffer unfairly for that). The debate is one of the things I enjoy most. I may not always agree with everything that is written on the site, but each post, almost unerringly, spurs me to think.
As I experienced when I wrote Hiroshima and Nagasaki: A Failure of Empathy, comments and responses can get contentious. But, the fact of the matter is, that if a person was not impacted by what they read, they would not comment. Those who are most affected, tend to respond more readily. This works both ways, positive and negative. I've been extremely fortunate to experience the positive side more than the negative. For that, I have to thank my readers. Their responses have made this feel less like just a blog, and more like a community...