|LISA: Can you tell us about yourself? For example, what are three important things we should know about you?|
CAROLINE: Sure! My name is Caroline Turner and I am a licensed social worker in Texas. I grew up in Kansas City and my family still lives on the Missouri side. I have worked in the autism world since 2007 and love working with this population that I often feel is highly misunderstood. When not working, I love hanging out with my family and friends, reading, or playing with my dog, Otis.
L: You recently started Quirky Buds. What inspired you to start this endeavor?
C: As a social worker in the Developmental Behavioral Pediatric Clinic (DBP), I host support groups for parents. In April, an attending parent said, “I only attended this group in the hopes to find another family nearby who also has a child with autism.” I nodded and felt frustrated that I could not offer a solution. I have heard this request repeatedly for years. I always thought a matching system would be easy and crucial for families and adults with autism to connect. As I jumped off the call, I thought, “You know what, I’ll just do it.” And so, Quirky Buds was born.
L: What should we know about Quirky Buds?
C: Quirky Buds is a free and private friendship-matching system. The goal is to connect individuals with different abilities with like-minded buds near them. Matching is done based on interest, location, and age. Quirky Buds is focused on supporting people of all ages across the states and currently has buds enrolled from ages two through 75. Currently, we have buds signed up in over 12 states and are expanding! As we grow, there are certain places with more buds than others. So when you first sign up, please be patient as we find buds near you!
L: How would someone become involved with Quirky Buds?
C: It is super easy and again, free! Visit the website: www.quirkybuds.com and fill out the short form. If you are a parent of a child younger than 18, you will fill out the child form. Versus, if you are a parent of an older child and/or signing up for yourself, then you fill out the adult form. From there, hang tight until Tuesday when we send out weekly updates with buds near you! Once you receive a bud, message them, connect, and see if they are a good fit!
L: Is there anything you’d like to add?
C: I am so grateful for the outpouring of support as I have started this project. It has been ever changing and I want it to work for individuals who are neurodiverse but also for anyone who is looking for a friend like them. The pandemic brought so much isolation and I am thrilled to offer a small solution to hopefully alleviate some of that pain for people. As this grows, I am always open to feedback, thoughts, or collaboration. If you want to get in touch with me directly, please do: firstname.lastname@example.org.