11 September 2013

Will Adele Have Friends?

Lately, when I go out and something comes up about Down syndrome, all I hear is that it's a lot of work. It's life long. It's going to keep you busy. Make sure you get all of your funding. Always be your child's strongest advocate. Your child will probably live with you forever.
"You have a child with Down syndrome? I'm sorry." 
Don't we as parents all have worries when it comes to our children, Down syndrome or not?
I've read a lot of posts lately where moms and dads are so frustrated with their child's progress and that the child is hitting milestones way later then expected. I keep hearing a lot of upset and very discouraged parents.
It hurts when I read this. In my mind, I know that Adele will hit some of her milestones later and I have promised myself that I won't get upset if she isn't potty trained by 4. I won't be sad if she doesn't say mom until she's 3. I won't be sad if she isn't walking by 2. I won't be sad if she doesn't count to 3 until she's 3. Will I be discouraged even though I know what to expect? There are so many things that run through my mind and daily I try to convince myself that it will all be ok. It will all work out. It will be fine when milestones are hit much later.
I think one of my biggest worries is that will I be sad if she only has special needs friends? I would be sad. I know it.
Just pondering....
My sister sent me this link. :)
Study Suggests a Special Needs Child is the Most Important Friend Your Kid May Ever Make

Like many children, my son is friendly with the kids in his classroom. Unlike many children, those are his only friends.
Max has cerebral palsy and cognitive impairment, due to a stroke at birth; he attends a school for kids with special needs. The lack of typically-developing friends doesn't bother Max, who is not yet conscientious of it. It bothers me. Max is a super-friendly, fun kid who deserves lots of different friends-and lots of friends deserve him.
Of course, my friends' children hang with him when they visit. One of my best friends has arranged playdates with her daughter who's around Max's age, though she lives an hour away. The neighborhood kids are friendly when everyone's playing outside, but that's as far as it goes. Their moms have never reached out to me and vice versa, although I know I should take that first step. Friendship would benefit all our children, as a new study reveals.
A study of 1520 children ages 7 to 16 found that those who regularly interacted with people with disabilities generally had better attitudes toward people with special needs. They were less fearful of them, too, and more empathetic. Even just observing other people interact with those who had special needs, or observing their friendships, improved children's attitudes, shows the study by the University of Exeter Medical School in England.
These friendships could majorly benefit children with special needs like my son. They'd feel included instead of ostracized. It could boost their self-esteem, and even help them develop. It would open their worlds. Less obvious, I think, are the potential payoffs for children who don't have special needs. As study author Megan MacMillan said at the recent British Psychological Society conference, "The effort to improve attitudes is worthwhile, as negative attitudes are often internalized." Related: 7 things you should NEVER say to a kid
If your child doesn't ever interact with kids who have special needs, consider the benefits that go far beyond the usual gifts of friendship. Getting to know a child with special needs could open her mind so that she grows up to be more accepting and appreciative of individual differences. Having a "diverse" group of friends-important to many parents today-isn't just about kids of all races, it's about kids of all abilities, too. A friendship like this could also sharpen your child's communication skills, teaching her how to better interact with others. It could give her a deeper understanding of what it means to overcome challenges, and that everyone has their own unique value in this world.

I reached out to David Quilleon, a Vice President at Best Buddies International, to ask about benefits the nonprofit has seen for non-disabled friends (the group creates opportunities for one-on-one friendships for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities). As an answer, he shared a letter he'd received from a chapter that operates out of a middle school in Tennessee. It noted, "Our student volunteers learn about leadership, community service, and most importantly, they become advocates for their new friend to be afforded equal opportunities within the school culture."

I think I speak for most moms of kids with special needs when I say we're not looking for pity playdates here. We're looking for genuine connections. Yes, it's going to take a little more effort on your part. You will most likely have to explain to your child why mine walks and talks differently than other kids. That said, you could also talk about the ways my child is the same to help bridge the gap-after all, kids with special needs are kids first. They like to play with toys, watch TV, eat ice-cream, listen to music, and tell knock-knock jokes - same as any other kid.

Perhaps you won't know exactly what to tell your child about my child. No worries there-feel free to ask. I most likely wouldn't have known what to say, either, before I had my son and became a first-hand expert on the topic. Parents of kids with special needs are not expecting you or your child to act perfectly. Perfection, as we we well know, is not reality.
Just think, think of all the good friendships like this could do. Then go ahead and encourage your child to approach a child with special needs at the playground-a simple "Hi!" is always a great ice-breaker. If you have a child in middle or high school, find out about local Best Buddies programs (they're nationwide), or look into the e-Buddies pen pal program for kids ages 10 and up.

You could also ask around at your kid's school, or in your neighborhood or social media circles, whether anyone knows of a mom of a child with special needs who'd like to arrange a playdate with your child. I know how grateful the mom would be, because I am that mom.
Image source: iPhoto/kali9

-By Ellen Seidman

You may have noticed the Top Mommy Blog badge on my page. Feel free to click on it. Right now I am in the Newest Blogs section but will be eventually be in the Special Needs section. You can vote and rank my blog. :) Click on badge, go to Newest Blogs, find mine and click on the cupcakes, then you'll know what to do. :) Or, click on the above link and it will take you right to my page. :) I am not doing this for my ego, I am doing this because this journey is important to me, it is important to share and to hopefully educate, entertain and show others that it can be done. I've said for a while now that these two girls, with the help of family and friends, will change the world! :)



  1. Don't let anyone elses journey with their child affect your own. Don't let those posts get you feeling down. Even though we have kids with Ds in common, each of us takes our own path.

    When Russell was a baby I didn't care about those milestones either. I told myself I was fine with that slower pace. But then as he got older it got harder to watch as he struggled. Parents get discouraged and upset because they love their children and it hurts to see them have to work so damn hard for everything.

    I have had my fair share of "moments" when it comes to Russell's development...But I can say with all my heart that raising him has been the most beautiful, joyous experience of my life. The highs and the lows.

    Great post! Always love to hear what you're thinking about :)

  2. Dear JC!
    You make my world a better place. Would you like to write a book with me?
    You always know exactly what to say and how to say it.
    I know I will have moments....I think it's scary right now thinking about the future.
    Thanks for reading and for all of your advice and comments.

  3. Anyone who ends up being her friend is going to be one lucky kid. She is going to teach all of us so many wonderful and valuable life lessons. We are so blessed to have this amazing little blessing in our life. Love you Adele.

  4. OK- so I read more. I LOVE Adele! I love your whole family! You story mirrors my Maxwell's pretty much. He was in NICU, feeding tube, oxygen support, car seat test... etc etc. My sister lives in Calgary! I feel like I know you (maybe a past life). You are an amazing woman! Love reading your blog! Love seeing pictures. I want to hug that precious baby girl. Adele and Maxwell are sooo close in age. I don't know how these things really work. Am I allowed to put my email address on here? Well, here goes nothing... alliecatt11@gmail.com. I guess the whole world reading this could email me now. LOL I would love to hear from you... I know how you feel, I FEEL how you feel. This is an amazing journey. Adele and Max will have LOTS of friends. The questions you are asking yourself about Adele's milestones are the same exact ones I have asked myself many times. My gosh, I am blown away right now that I am reading your blog... it is like you read my mind at times. Love it! Kisses to your entire family and prayers being sent your way. Adele is BEAUTIFUL!

    1. Hi Allison....your message just made me smile. I am sending you an email! :)

  5. I don't have a special needs child but I have two daughters. One thing I have learned is your journey with each will be different. Try your best not to compare and in those struggling moments with each stop and remind yourself of the things you absolutely love about who they are. I found you through your guest post with Laurie. I m following you now and looking forward to following your journey.
    Angela @ Time with A & N

    1. I never replied to this comment.....shame on me! ;) Glad you found me Angela. xo