Thursday, December 15, 2011
Someone to Pinky Swear With
I have such fond memories of growing up and spending endless hours with my friends. We would play with our Barbie dolls, or build forts in the swamp behind our houses, or ride our bikes and skate. As we became teenagers, we would giggle about boys, try out makeup, and pull all the clothes out of our closets trying to find the exact right outfit for the school dance. My childhood was defined by those friendships, and by the passages through time that we shared.
But my beautiful daughter, Ashley, has never had and probably never will have similar experiences.
I have tried to encourage friendships between Ashley and her non-disabled peers, and often even other disabled peers. But those friendships never happen. A very few times, I would find a peer with a heart that wanted and tried to be a friend, but it never lasted. The lure of typical peers and typical activities would always win over communication difficulties, medical difficulties, and often limited responses from Ashley.
Ashley has never been invited to a birthday party or a sleepover. The only times she goes shopping at the mall is if we, her family, take her. She doesn’t talk or text on a phone, and she doesn’t share clothes or dreams with girlfriends. She has never been to a school dance or a school football game. She doesn’t have Facebook ‘friends’, and her teachers may refer to her ‘friends’ at school, but really they are not.
I don’t know how to facilitate those friendships. I don’t know how to create situations where friendships, lasting friendships, can happen naturally. And all that makes me very sad.
What about the others of you who have children with significant disabilities? Do your children have friends? How has that come about? And by friends, I don’t mean people who take pity on our children or view them as a ‘service project. I mean real friends. Friends like Paige, Rusty, and Diane from my past…
Someone please convince me that there is still hope.