True Friendships And Strong Voices Emerging In Social Media

Twitter isn’t just for Justin Bieber anymore; it’s actually a great support system (anonymous or otherwise) in real time. You can follow people with the same interests and experiences almost immediately by using a simple hashtag. I’ve been on it for a while now. Shockingly, I love it!

I’m inspired every day by incredible people doing groundbreaking work.

About a year ago, I “met” the fabulous founder of Ollibean – Lauri Hunt. We connected instantly through our similar taste in design (I love her videos of her son’s therapy) and our 140 character vernacular was very similar (we are big fans of “!!”).

Our relationship started on twitter, moved to facebook, and got to the more serious level of emailing and skype – all “work” related (life’s work that is) but there was definitely a strong connection between us based on mutual respect and shared experiences.

A little while ago, I made the trip to visit her in her home state. Would I know her when I saw her? Would it be weird?

I knew her instantly. Beautiful, sparkly, all of the warmth and generosity I felt through our RT’s and DM’s back and forth. We sat for hours and had lunch. I wished I hadn’t driven, as a glass of wine would have made the whole thing perfect!

She is a friend. I know that for sure. It may have been an unorthodox way to meet, but a friend is a friend is a friend. And social media, when done mindfully, can foster real connection.

I’m excited to feature her here so you can learn about the incredible work she and her family are doing at Ollibean:


Please tell us what Ollibean is, and why you started it in the first place:

Ollibean is a free, content driven, disability-centric community that integrates news and editorial led content with social conversations. It offers a way to connect with people based on shared interest in related content. We built Ollibean, for families, self-advocates, professionals, brands, and causes all over the world to learn and collaborate with each other.
We’ve organized it so members can support each other in a very organic way, by connecting with others based on mutual interest in content. It’s important that families have a resource that is that is inclusive and accepting of our differences, who see disability as the natural part of human existence that it is.
In the parenting world, so many of the conversations about autism, special needs, disability in general, have taken place without the most important voices, people with disabilities. We are committed to standing with disability advocates, learning from them and spreading the word. Our hope is that when a family has a child that is diagnosed with any disability, you would be given a list of advocacy organizations and they can hear from real people who certainly don’t view their lives as tragedies – neither anyone else. Until that happens, we have a pretty great list that is always growing.
Our hope that Ollibean helps everyone realize that we’re all just people. The long term goal is that it is equally relevant to families that don’t happen to have kids with special needs, that  it is simply inclusive.
Where did the name come from?
We wanted a name that was meaningful to us and was fun and bright. Henry’s nickname is Henry Bean, and OL and LI are the first 2 initials of Olivia and Lily, our daughters. We are Cherokee and ollii means friendship in tsaliga, the Cherokee language.  So it fit.
We love Ollibean’s messaging and design. Why do you think this is so important?
Thank-you, that means a lot, because we feel the same way about Squag. We wanted Ollibean to feel happy, warm, intuitive, and perfectly imperfect.

We knew we wanted to get our information about raising a child with special needs in the same way we get everything else  – through a beautiful, engaging, easy-to-use process. Some of the sites we’d seen were more clinical, and we wanted to create a different space. One place where people can go and find reliable information about that is positive.

The kids and young adults on Ollibean are our all family friends, some have special needs, some don’t. The voices in the video are their voices, some were spoken, some were typed. This is real life. They are happy, intelligent, complex, strong, amazing people, from happy, complex, strong, amazing families. Our family is one of them.

Of course there are challenges, life threatening challenges that no child should have to go through, no family should have to worry about. There are challenges with the way society views disability, insurance, surgeries, supports – there are plenty.

We’re certainly not saying that everything is perfect and easy – life isn’t perfect and easy. But we are happy families in which every member is valued and cherished for being exactly who they are. Our messaging is all about celebrating our differences, while recognizing the humanity we all share. Hopefully that comes through in everything we do.

Don’t miss Part Two of this interview, that focuses on mentorship between adult self-advocates with autism and the positive impact it’s having on young kids growing up today.

More links:
Faces of Ollibean: