Since beginning this blog just short of a month ago, I’ve had a few people email me to ask me questions like, “Is it hard to set up a blog like this?”, “How did you learn how to do this?”, etc.   While it is awfully nice that they would ask me these questions, I am a newbie.  But it got me thinking about my experiences with blogging over the past few weeks, and I find that I have learned a few things.  So, if you are thinking about starting your own ASD/special needs parent blog, here’s what I have gleaned so recently:

1.  You can’t just start a blog and wait for them to come to you.  It doesn’t work that way. You must use social networking to find your potential audience.  Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the like serve a purpose — they connect you in very different ways to people who share your reality.  And, by doing that, you will find amazing blogs whose audience you wish to join.  Most importantly, interacting with the special-needs community will teach you quickly that you are not alone.

2.  Self-promotion can be a tricky thing and feel unnatural for those of us who’ve never worked in sales.  You have to do it, or  no one will find your blog.  But you also don’t want to do it in tacky ways, so finding the right words when promoting your blog can be hard.  If you are like me, it will be a test of your courage to step out on that stage for the first time.

3.  As soon as you begin reading blogs of other parents, you may feel not worthy.  Suddenly, the challenges you are facing with one toddler who is likely on the milder end of the ASD spectrum pale in comparison to the mom who is raising six kids with severe ASD, is in foreclosure, and battling cancer.  You might feel like you have nothing to say or offer.  You have to remember that everything in life is relative.  No matter what our children’s challenges are, we all love and worry about them exactly the same.  It is important to neither discount yourself nor discount others.

 4.  If you put a picture or a name out there into the blogosphere, you will be discovered by those in your real life, particularly if it is a special needs blog.  There are a lot more people who connect to the special needs community than you might imagine (teachers, therapists, doctors, nurses, social workers, etc.).  It’s a smaller world than you perceive it to be.
5.  There is such a thing as blogger’s regret.  If you think that you felt stupid over a verbal flub made in front of your co-workers, imagine how stupid you will feel when 25,000 people read it.  The printed word can say everything and yet it often doesn’t reveal the subtleties of intonation, irony, and humor.  You will re-read a post and realize that it might possibly come across in a very different – and likely unfortunate – way than you intended.  This can make you feel a little like you’re doing the walk of shame from your college days.

6.  You will receive hate mail.  You might get 100 positive and supportive comments, and only one negative one.  Depending on your constitution, this might be the one your self-esteem fixates upon.

7.   People are not always what they seem like online.  There are sharks out there offering iPads, and special needs resources if you’ll just take a moment to give them all your private information.  These people will try to befriend you and hitch their wagon to you before revealing their true nature.   You have a moral responsibility to rid your blog and social networking from the appearance that you support these folks and not allow them to lurk around.

8.  Having a post go viral or get Freshly Pressed (or some other such net attention) is exciting for a day, maybe two.  Then reality sets in, your stats drop, and you wake up with blogger’s block.  Most blogs that go viral, including yours, really will be a one hit wonder.  Perhaps if your blogging intention is merely to make money, this might bum you out.  If you are blessed to be blogging about something that is important to you and others, then obscurity isn’t all that significant.  When it comes to blog recognition, we can’t all be Dooce, and most of us will probably have to keep our day jobs.

9.  Those wonderful folks you are connecting to online are real people who matter.  But the real people who live in your house and actually know your phone number and home address matter more.  Of course I knew this before I started blogging, but I didn’t know how easy it is to get caught up online.

10.  There are a lot of really stupid fake awards, badges, “contests”, etc. that you can clutter up your blog with and distract you from your real purpose – writing useful content.  If all you have to do is register and copy/paste some code into a text widget, you really haven’t won anything.  If your content stinks, visitors won’t be impressed with all those badges either.

11.  There are a bunch of ethical considerations when blogging.  Should you use your real name?  Is it okay to tell the world about your child?  Is it okay to make money blogging about something as serious as ASD/special needs?  How do you balance honesty and advertising?  Bloggers make different decisions about these for different reasons.  It’s important not to judge others’ decisions and to find the answers to these questions that will suit both your blog and your conscience.

12.  You might regret letting those in your real life know about your blog.  Especially if you live in a small town.  It really can stunt your writing.  Suddenly you worry what your flesh and blood friends and family will think of what’s really going on inside your head.  Once you start worrying about what other people think, you then aren’t as free to write what you really need to say.

13.  There’s a world of people out there who know exactly how you feel.  They are rich and poor, blue-collar and white-collar, religious and atheist, left-wing and right-wing, American and international, and every sort of dramatic variation there can be.  But they know your heart and mind.  They too have held a child tightly in their arms and wished it was possible to take away the challenges they will face or heal them with nothing more than a parent’s love.

14.  Think twice before blogging about your mother-in-law.  It just might get a little more traffic than you anticipated.  And then you will constantly be looking around, waiting for the inevitable.  Theoretically speaking, of course.  😉

I really do have a LOT more to learn.  I am planning to move to wordpress.org — as soon as I get up my nerve.  And I have a lot of technical things to figure out about optimizing my site, blogging support forums, something about a sitemap, etc. etc.  Everything you need to know can be found online, of course.  It just takes a little time to learn what you need to learn.  But, overall, it has been a profound and cathartic experience.  I urge those of you thinking about it to give it a whirl.

So, Fellow Bloggers, what have you learned from your blogging experiences?

25 responses »

  1. Nicki Smith says:

    Thank you! You gave me a bit of a boost. I just started my special needs blog and I have been feeling a bit insecure about it. It’s so true that when you read the blogs about severe cases you don’t feel worthy! My daughter has autism and cerebral palsy and is an ABA poster child. Really we have had so much success and I almost feel weird sharing that you know. I just have to remind myself that I started my blog to share the Hope! Any more tips on networking? I’m a little timid when it comes to that. Thanks again!

  2. serens says:

    Number 2 is a problem for me. I don’t want to just write “Oooh, read my blog here!” because I think that’s a bit rude, especially if it’s a reply to someone else’s blog. At the same time, I’m a firm believer in 12 because I want a place I can be candid, and if I know there’s a chance that “your name here” will read it, then I can’t go on my little rant… and if I don’t rant somewhere, then I’m going to rant to them. And I promise you that I am far better in print than in speech. So keeping with number 12, and being bad at number 2, it means I don’t know anyone, and they don’t know me either… pretty hard to get readers that way.

    I love writing, but I keep changing my mind about what to blog about lol. Hopefully my brain will set itself on something and that handy ASD stubborness will take over.

  3. dogear6 says:

    I started blogging nearly a year. I was surprised that as I improved my content, it took me so long to write each night. My longer posts needed about two hours each to develop, write and edit. It was a great way to end the day, but my reading and other hobbies have fallen way off.

    I’d have been more careful on the categories and tags, especially when labeling the family stories. It’s hard now to go back and find things.

    And uhm, well, until I read this, I was going to give you an award. It was started by a fellow blogger that I’ve gotten to know. It’s purpose is to honor those who bring light into the world. Which your blog does. You certainly do not have to accept or acknowledge it, but my thoughts remain the same. You bring light into the darkness to others.

    http://believeanyway.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/creation-of-new-blog-award-the-candle-lighter-award/

    Nancy

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Thank you. I’m not really against awards that are given. It’s just that in perusing blogger sites and autism blogging, I have come across awards that you can give yourself! You know. The kind where you create an account and copy the little text widget badge. That seems…silly. It’s entirely different if someone gives it because they think you should have it. So, thank you, Nancy! That means more than giving it to myself. lol

  4. Yonatan Koch says:

    I was diagnosed with Learning Disabilities or Learning Differences at a very young age. I now teach students on the Autistic Spectrum through Early Intervention. My students are 1-3. Back in college I started working on a book, (which I never finished) and lately I have been thinking about writing a blog but right now I am raising 3 special needs kids and teaching so timing is everything. However, I want to thank you for writing this blog that I came across through seeing “An Apology From Your Child’s Former Teacher” on Facebook.

  5. Jeannette says:

    You have a very clear narrative voice in this post and you offer new bloggers some very good advice. I hope blogging continues to be a good way for you not only to network with other parents and share what you obviously are learning in parenting life, but to take care of yourself in nuanced ways that writing can often provide. best wishes.

  6. Judy Winter says:

    Leigh: I’ve just added another post about you and your terrific blog on my blog Winter Ramblings: winterramblings.blogspot.com. I’ve used the photo of you with your child from your blog for this post. Please let me know if that is that is not okay with you. I’ve recommended flappiness is as one of my new fav special needs parenting blogs. Keep up the great work! -Judy Winter, author of Breakthrough Parenting for Children with Special Needs: Raising the Bar of Expectations

  7. Looks as if you have learned a lot in a short time :0). All of your points have crossed my mind at some point, I think I just go with it (my mother-in-law I have learned will dislike me if I try hard or don’t try at all ~ so I choose to be me :0), she will choose to be her and one day we may make it work :0) ). Your blog has helped out so much, I have not yet “revealed” on mine what we are going thru with our youngest, but I have really enjoyed all that you have posted (fb as well) ~ Thanks
    Angela

  8. I love how my blog connects me with other people who are in a similar situation to me. That connection, as well as the writing process, is very therapeutic.

  9. jmcdp says:

    Love it! Most people are afraid of being sincere.
    As parents of special needs children, we do what we think is better for them. There will always be people that will disagree with me. Some love telling me how to do things the “right” way. At the end, it is just me and my family.

  10. Yes, I’ve learned so much on this blogging journey as well. I needed my blog to be anonymous because I was desperate for a safe place to work out my feelings honestly. Having to consider what everyone I know thought about my feelings would make it useless to me. But, their has been this unexpected gift of making new friends along the way and finding people who want to hear more of what I have to say. It both fills a hole of feeling alone in all of this sometimes and causes me terror that i should actually have something of interest to say. Yet, another thing I am still working out…..:) once again, thanks for all you share with us!

  11. Sue says:

    I started my blog as a personal blog when my first child was born. After my 2nd was diagnosed and I started to write about our special needs journey, I noticed that others I didn’t know were reading as well. It’s been neat to see how others have benefited from what has been more of a therapeutic outlet for me. I continue to write for me and my family and that helps me to keep my blog genuine…at least I hope! I totally agree with all your insights and I, too, LOVE that blogging has helped to get in touch with a special needs community I didn’t know existed. I’ve made some wonderful friendships this way and I’m very thankful. Thanks so much for putting yourself out there in this way. Love reading.

  12. Megan says:

    I would love to write about my MIL! But can’t. She reads my blog :/ Buuuut never comments or mentions anything about we are going through. Thanks for the blogging advice!

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Mine doesn’t know what a blog is. She uses the internet, but she doesn’t even know how to properly type in a URL. I’m safe in terms of HER discovering me. What I’m in danger of is someone else discovering it and telling her. So, I haven’t mentioned it at all in my regular FB account, but I have in my FB writer’s group and reading group. (Yet, both are local groups as well…) Problem is, I’m a teacher. Inevitably someone in the educational community will see it. It’s probably a matter of time…

      • Stephanie says:

        My MIL is the same, couldn’t figure out the internet to save her life. However I recently learned that my SIL calls and reads MIL my blog everyday! Good think I haven’t said anything. 😉

      • FlappinessIs says:

        My time is coming, Stephanie. Just last night, a local acquaintance messages my personal FB account about my blog and her randomly coming across it. There will be you know what to pay. Fortunately, my husband, though he adores his mama, didn’t attempt to stifle my writing. His response was, “Well, it’s true. She shouldn’t have said it. Maybe she’ll read it and realize it herself.” I don’t think that’s likely, but one can hope. 🙂

  13. Belinda Phillips says:

    Hey girlfriend. Love number 14. 🙂

  14. Ummaryam says:

    I have learned it can be very addicting! LIke u mentioned u cant forget about the ppl in your house lol

  15. judithornot says:

    I tend to be very protective of my family and their privacy. And family members have only recently learned I even write a blog. But everyone has to find their own balance. What you are writing is SO important for anyone who works with and/or loves a special needs child and their family. Thank you. 🙂

    • FlappinessIs says:

      Thank you. And that is so true about people finding their own balance. I toyed with aliases and found myself accidentally filling in the actual name anyway. I knew then it wouldn’t work for me. I’d give myself away!

      And I one day hope to use the skills (that I plan to develop in the course of writing this blog) to write in other ways. So I went ahead and used my own name.

      It is definitely important to weigh the pros and cons. You have to ask yourself these questions or you might regret it.

      Thanks for sharing. Hope to hear from you again. 🙂

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