Exceptional Children Need Friends: A Frank Discussion
Parents of special needs children need resources for the child. Sure, there are plenty of resources to assist with academics, behavior and financial supports. Then there are resources that focus on discipline, life skills and employment. These supports are mainly for the parents and usually only focus on helping the parents so they can help their kids. But what about those kids? They need supports too; supports that are directly geared toward the child.
People who need people
I have always been a proponent of exceptional parents helping each other. Only we can understand the challenges other exceptional parents face. We need each other mainly for emotional support; and yes, it is always nice to make a new friend.
Although, we are not the only ones who need friends; our children need friends first.
Let’s be honest, many parents of children with a disability might say their children have friends at school. They have friends at the elementary level because a positive social atmosphere is promoted by administration; and we want that.
Middle school opens the doors for various behaviors and the bullies start to appear. Students don’t want to hang around with people who are “weird.” Consequently, it is always something.
Transitioning to high school usually means transitioning to a more diverse population. By now, our student most likely will not volunteer to walk up and meet the first person he or she sees sitting alone. Our children feel awkward.
Even students who have grown up in an inclusive or self-contained classroom need peers to who they can talk and socialize. It is so important for them, but maybe more so for the parents.
Friends without resources
Our teenagers and young adults need friends. When our typical teenagers get to high school it is hard to maintain friendships. Peer pressure is horrible and teenagers often have many challenges in high school. They just want to fit in and be like everybody else. Our exceptional children want the same thing, but are not like everyone else. Sometimes, when our children form friendships, they don’t usually last very long.
I mean, “friends.” Real friends who are able visit or hang out. Not those who come from an online resource. I am convinced that real-life friends give our children the motivation to get up in the morning; to provide a reason to live and to change attitudes. Friends could make all the difference in the world. Where do we find them?
Our most vulnerable children are so lonely. Many of the disabled young adults don’t drive and are dependent on parents to chauffeur them. This is just not possible for some parents. The dependency factor creates so many hurdles for both the children and the parents.
I regularly research places to find other parents who might be in the same situation. It is heart wrenching to see our young adults home weekend after weekend with no outside relationships. Good grief, we parents can’t be their only socialization — poor kids.
Handbook for friends
All the resources in the world won’t be able to locate a true friend for our children. Someone to call, go to a movie with or just “hang out.” Seems easy enough, but not much of a reality for exceptional children.
There just is no handbook on how to manage our children’s emotions. The fact is, by the end of the day, we’re tired. It is emotionally draining and so sad to see our children alone. We want so much for our children to be happy.
There are a million ways to support our kids, but I only need one.
C.C. Malloy is a disability advocate and steadfast supporter of special needs children. Any information here should not be considered legal advice and counsel should be sought for personal educational guidance. For additional support, please visit her website, Bizigal's Exceptional Blooms.