I’m letting you in on the start of a God-inspired project. I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I do know one thing: life with special needs requires a team. So that’s exactly what we’re doing – building a team around our family.
A few weeks ago I bravely sent a letter to 9 people in Max’s life inviting them to be a part of this team – teachers, buddies from church, family. I’ve attached that letter below. I’m happy to say all 9 have accepted. What a great start!
I hope you’ll follow along as I share progress reports and next steps on this team-building journey. Most of all, I hope you’ll be inspired to build a team around your own family. Here we go…
It’s Emily Colson here. I have an idea that I’d like to share. It’s a vision for life lived as a “we,” and not a “me.”
Let me explain.
You know Max – he’s 24, totally awesome, and has a diagnosis of autism. When Max attended school, he had a team. It’s the way school systems work for children with special needs. Max’s team was made up of people from many different disciplines, each bringing their expertise. We held an annual TEAM meeting, and kept in touch throughout the year. Whenever a new challenge came up, the TEAM was on it. We were unified by our common desire for Max’s best.
And then Max graduated…and the word “TEAM” quickly dropped from our vocabulary.
But here is the reality: Autism is a team sport. It requires coordination. It calls for a coach. It can’t be done alone. So bear with me – this is a work in progress.
Right now our lives look like this:
Max and I are in the center, and we are connected to many wonderful and amazing people for whom we are deeply thankful. This is great…until an emergency arises. Or until I’m too tired or overwhelmed to hold things together. Or until one of those giant cartoon anvils drops from the sky, the one that has “1 TON” written on the side, and flattens me like a paper doll.
So, I’m writing to ask you, as someone very special in Max’s life, if you would be willing to let us connect the dots between you and others around Max. I’d like our lives and relationships to form a circle rather than spokes. People in our lives will get to know one another, and bonds will become stronger. Through this process, a complete circle would be built around us, a team of people Max and I can go to.
This would become our Go2 Team!
Our lives would begin to look more like this:
It’s the same principal that makes a wheel roll instead of thump.
This is where you come in! Would you consider being a part of our Go2 Team?
Of course, you might want to know exactly what this Go2 Team is, and just as importantly, what it is not. Let’s start with what it is not.
What the Go2 Team is not:
It is not people who will let me off the hook for the things I am responsible for as Max’s mother. It is not people who will be expected to cover Max when I am away, although some of the team members already serve in this role. It is not people I can call on a whim, like when there is a large bug in my house. Although at times this is actually an emergency. It is not a popularity contest. It is not the same as a legal guardian. It is not people who will make decisions without me, or instead of me. It is not people who will be asked to take over in case I decide to live in a hut in Tahiti. (Don’t worry, I won’t – there are bugs)
What the Go2 Team is:
It is a team I can Go2 when a problem is too big for me to think through alone. It will be a Max “think tank,” if you will. It is a team I can Go2 when the person covering Max gets hit with food poisoning, and I’m all the way in California, or Delaware, or a lounging leisurely at a spa (well, it might happen) and I can’t find anyone to step in. I could send one email asking the Go2 Team to either step in or reach out to their connections – our family or church or Max’s day program for example – and sound the alarm. It is a team I can Go2 when there is a looming concern on the horizon, and when there is a big accomplishment to be celebrated. It is a team that could spring into action in case of an emergency, and help each other navigate an otherwise complicated path. It is a team I can Go2 when I am exhausted, overwhelmed, or when that one-ton anvil has made contact.
We would be a team. Not necessarily an every day team, but a ready and willing team.
Now…there is still a problem.
Autism is complicated. If there really were an emergency, and I became suddenly unavailable, our Go2 Team would need to do more than just pull together as a team – they would need fast advice. Certainly, there would be questions about support services and insurance and medical care and more. And it would be difficult to know where to begin. Yes, I have a “Max Book” to cover the basics, and files organized in a file cabinet. But the Go2 Team would need more. Where would the Go2 Team go for more information and advice?
It looks like we need another circle beyond our Go2 Team.
If we built a second outer circle for emergency help, it could include autism specialists, the family support personnel from state agencies, our pastor, a deacon at our church, disability ministry friends, a representative from Max’s past school program, a representative from Max’s day program, past and present teachers, and Max’s doctors. These are people who know and care about Max, and who have access to his history and story and records. Only those who state a willingness to offer individual guidance in the event of an emergency would be listed in this second circle of support.
Since this outer circle is where the Go2 Team can go for help in an emergency, let’s call this second outer circle the Go4 Team!
Our lives will start to look like this:
Now, this thing is going to roll!
Of course, individuals may come in and out of both of these circles. The most important thing is that everyone will stay connected. I will have a team to reach out to when life gets complicated. And the team around Max will have a place to go for help and advice in an emergency. And when all of this happens, the weight of the really big challenges will become lighter, the joy of accomplishments will become greater, and the bonds between those who love and care about Max will become deeper.
And I can live life as a we, and not a me.
Now, about that flight to Tahiti.