Each of my 6 children have all experienced the same challenges when it comes to making friends. 'How do i get them to like me?, why don't they let me play the game?, why did they stop playing with me?' However, for some, the challenge was greater than for the others. My oldest (with his adhd and autistic tendencies) has never felt the need to have friends; it's not a priority to him. On the other hand, my middle child has placed friends at the highest priority. Everything he does (manerisms, wardrobe, activities) is greatly influenced by his need to make and keep friends. And then for the rest of the gang, making friends has been a breeze. It comes down to each child individually as to what lengths they are willing to go to in order to make friends.
As I sit here and think about how to write what friendship is to my daughter Maycee, I keep coming back to there is no difference than what I wanted when I was 13. Someone to laugh with, play with, feel at ease and be comfortable with. To spend time with and be able to trust they will not hurt you. To be there for you in times of good and also in difficult times giving a sense of loyalty. Friendships are a crucial need in a balanced happy and healthy life.
If the definition is the same for my daughter now as it was for me at 13, why is it so difficult for my daughter to make true friends? My answer would be, because she is chronologically 13 but significantly cognitively and physically impaired. She has “friends” at church. She has “friends” at school. She has “friendly” people in her community, but what she doesn’t have are true friends in her peer group. I do not want to diminish the kindness, attention and thoughtfulness that is bestowed on Maycee’s behalf in her different extracurricular activities, but understanding how other girls her age have friends-- I want the same for her. Does she know she is missing out? Not yet. But in recent months I have seen her closely watch her “friends.” I have noticed some copying like wanting to carry her own church bag aka “purse” like her friends, she will walk up and in greeting give her style of hug, she will borrow my cell phone and “call her friends” or say she is texting. If being honest, I don’t want her to fully understand what she is missing in hopes it would deter her from any sort of hurt, unless her understanding would allow her to cultivate friendships.
I believe the component of error in the ideal friend that society would suggest Maycee is missing would be the giving back part. Can she offer age appropriate comments or engage in a teenage conversation? Could she independently meet a girlfriend at a movie and want to check out boys? Could she be dropped off at the mall with friends and have an interest in shopping for clothes? To all questions, No. Do I as her mom have the opportunity to reteach her community about what she can do in terms of being a friend? …YES. She loves to laugh, she likes to play, you can feel at ease, comfortable and safe with her. You can trust her with your secrets, she will spend as much time as you want to spend with her and her loyalty would run deep.
As someone who could help foster friendships for her, I can look at how she can make friends in a new way. Are there activities that she likes to do that her peer age group enjoys? Yes, she likes to watch movies, eat at restaurants, shop for toys, go hiking, play games, dance and sing or swing. I believe the more society is surrounded by those who have limitations or disabilities the more they will see true friendships can happen. Now all that is left to do is Invite!
The analogy of a flower works perfectly for me when it comes to friendship. If you want your friendship to grow and thrive you need to give it the things that it requires. A flower needs to be watered and given sunlight and friendship needs time and energy. Both require a commitment. If you neglect either for too long, it will fade or die. Of course friendship means something different to each individual and they may place importance on different aspects of friendship. Friendship for me is someone who I can trust and rely on. They may not be someone I see or talk to often, but are always there for me in time of need and vice versa. Now having children of my own and knowing what an important role friendship has played in my life, I try to encourage them to develop their own friendships. When they were younger, I played a large role in helping them find and nurture friendship but as they have gotten older I find that I can now take a step back and watch them establish their own friendships. My daughter is very outgoing and tends to make friends easily, while my son is friendly to everyone but only calls to a select few of friends. As they continue to get older, they will decide and evaluate what friendship means to them and whom they value as friends. I truly hope that they have the fortune of finding and maintaining friendships like I have in my life.
I am a mother of a 2 little boys, 5 and 3 years old. Both of my boys have Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder. The 5 year old also has Anxiety Disorder, ADHD and Attachment Disorder.
This year our 5 year old went to preschool and learned that there were kids that would be his friend. Kids his age that could overlook his meltdowns, temper when overstimulated, the unkind words he spoke when he didn’t have time to adjust to a transition in activities. This friend made the world of difference to my son. Many children and adults think he is just spoiled, can’t mind and is naughty. The truth is he can’t handle noise, change and the unpredictable. He is stuck in his train of thought and how things should go. The best thing his little friend did was to stick beside him and not take it personal. How at 5 years old did this little boy know how to do this, I think it was the openness of his parents and the love that they show everyone. This little guy would make a point to always say “hi” to my son and play with him. He made the transition to preschool a positive experience. He will always be remembered by my son and was the only one he wanted a picture with the last day of school. I will be forever grateful to parents who raise their children to be accepting of everyone, whether they are like you or not. Everyone needs honest to goodness friends.
I feel that friendship for my child is important because all kids need to interact with other kids. The interaction helps develop social skills, builds confidence and will help my child fit in. I I feel that it also will make her feel accepted and respected. I also feel that friendship provides support, security and encouragement. Even when there is a lack verbal skills there are still gestures such as smiles, hugs and holding hands that can show support.
It is hard for my daughter to make friends because she does not know how to do a one to one interaction and with the lack in communication it makes it hard for her to talk and have pretend play conversations with other kids. I have to find activities, encourage the play and sometimes help with playing. I can say that she has never been invited to someone's house to play. As a group we get invited to play. She has been invited to a few birthday parties but I have always been there to help.
Also it is hard for my daughter to play with someone because I have to be there. With the boys I can drop them off at a friends house and know that they can do things like go to the bathroom on their own. With my daughter I have to monitor things like that, I feel bad if my daughter has a bathroom accident and they have to clean it up. When my boys have friends over they can play and do things by themselves and really don't need help. With my daughter it is not like that. It is constant monitoring. If the friend that is over is another child that is disabled the mom will stay. So know it becomes me entertaining not just another child but a parents as well. Sometimes you just want your child to play with someone to keep them entertained and you don't have to do the constant entertainment.
Over the years we have had many struggles with friendship. People who say they are your friends quickly leave when something better comes along. The search for a true friend begins when a person realizes that they do not want just any friend. They want a friend who is willing to be the kind of person that they too, want as a friend. My son found this true friend. He was one that despite his and my son’s differences still took time to listen to my son’s needs and made him know that he cared. A friend is someone who is willing to take time for someone else. Someone who listens, is kind, has fun, shares, and never gives up on you. We have learned through our challenges with friendship that What is most important is to be the kind of great friend that someone is searching for too.
Friends help us make our way in the world. They keep us from getting too many of the bumps and bruises that the world sometimes dishes out, and they help us get over the bumps and bruises that do come our way. Friends help us figure out who we are and how we fit in with the world. Friends help us to see and experience many of the joys the world has to offer, one of the most important of which is friendship itself.
Who are these friends? They are the people in our lives that accept us for who we are and want to be with us and do things with us. Friends deepen experiences. We laugh louder at a joke when we hear it with a friend. Sunsets seen with a friend are more beautiful than those seen alone or with strangers. Friends count on each other, and we trust each other with things important. Knowing that we have someone who has our back gives us courage.
While friends compliment each other from time to time, more importantly they complement each other. We find some of our skills, talents, and knowledge in our friends, but more importantly we find in our friends some of those things we do not much have ourselves. Friends recognize that each has something to offer and when offered no payment is required. Friends don’t expect each other to be the same. We don’t allow individuality, we treasure it. Friends accept us for who we are. Knowing that we are somewhat or a lot different from each other and finding ways to fit together helps us to puzzle out many of life’s mysteries. With friends we are more than we are alone.
Friends have similar interests, which brings them together and makes the interests more interesting. We enjoy being with our friends, and we have fun with them. They expand our lives. When we think of our friends we smile.
Friends treat each other with respect. We recognize what is important to one another and take care to protect that. Friends help us to see what we do to get in our own way and help us see a better way. Sometimes friends make mistakes with other people and with each other. An important part of respect is shown when friends set aside judgment and forgive.
We feel caring from our friends and care for them. We feel safe with our friends, and we are more at peace with ourselves.
Mark S. Homan
What is friendship? This is a very good question that we should be asking ourselves, and our children each day. Everyone who you will ask is going to have a very different response than what you may have. How do we as individuals define friendship? I can say that I define friendship as someone who I can trust, and someone with whom I can create ever lasting memories with. We all go though so many stages of life as we get older and don't realize the importance of friendship, wether it is there for that moment, or wether it creates a lifelong bond. I had a wonderful experience with friendship growing up that I am sure some of you out there can say have had a similar experience. I grew up in a small town where my classmates I had in pre-school were my classmates throughout my high school career. A lot of my fellow classmates at one point or another had become a friend of mine, wether it was for just a year of close friendship or one that has lasted through the years. I had many different types of friends as I imagine everyone else does. I know that I was the one that everyone would go to when they needed someone to talk to. Still to this day I am that friend that lends a helping hand and a listening ear. For some people friendships can cultivate into such a strong relationship that these friends become family. I have friends that have become even close than my own family.
As I thought about friendship, I had wondered what my sons experience with his friendships would be. I remembered while I was pregnant I had already planned on who his friends would be and the amount of playdates that we will have with his friends. I had been completely blessed with the birth of my son and had already set up playdates with other mothers who I knew. I wanted him to have the same lifelong friendships that I had acquired even if it meant bringing him together with other children at just one month old. I know that as a mother, we consider friendships being such an important part of growing up for our children. I was so happy to begin this journey of a mother and bringing other children in our lives.
We had lived about 2 hours away from family and some of our friends, that we made the decision to move back closer to home. This way our son would be able to be around our HUGE family so he can begin to build the relationships at a young age. I loved the fact that we have such a big family unit with many children. I already had it pictured that he would be best friends with his boy cousins and would run around playing cops and robbers. I knew in my heart of hearts that he was going to immediately click with others as I did growing up. I figured that this was going to be one of the easiest parts of my job as a parent, since I knew how easy it was for everyone to make friends, including my son.
However, things had been just a little different. As he got a little older I began to notice that he really did not like the loud voices and cheering of his little cousins, or of anyone. He wasn't a fan of being held and cuddled by anyone but mom and dad. That of course seemed to make sense for me since he was so young. When he finally had the freedom to walk after his first birthday, he would use those legs of his to find a spot to have his own space. He would watch his cousins play, and every once in a while would try to join. We had eventually received a diagnosis of SPD (sensory processing disorder, formally known as sensory integration disorder). At this point, the little things that he would do around others began to slowly start making sense.
It has been an adventure as we have began to learn about the world of SPD, GDD, ASD, and so many other diagnosis. We never once thought that we would be thrown into this world. Ultimately, we have been beyond blessed with many of our friendships, and family. We are all being taught by this little hero of ours how to grow as a person. He has been able to teach us that our own friendships that we have cultivated were truly important as our friends have ad children of their own, and they have been able to see a way that a friendship can be cultivated with a twist. By learning what his limits are and what he is looking for in a friend, he, in his own terms creating a friendship on his own. He has a best friend who on his terms as well have built this adorable friendship. He has his little cousin who he completely adores beyond anything, and other older cousins that he is getting to know much better.
By building the bridges of friendship for our son, we realized that it was he himself that needed to find the values of what he wanted in his life. As a three year old, we never assumed that he would be able to learn this lesson on his own. We just gave him the tools that he needed, and the understanding of everyone around him, to let him be the one to approach. We were able to realize that at three, a friendship to him is someone that he can just be able to be around, to play with, and to play parroting games with.
Thankfully, with the help of my best friend, I was able to be a part of Pilot Parents. This program has brought many new friends into my life, and brought our amazing group together. With Friendship Flowers, we wanted to be able to be that starting point for ALL children to not only have a start point in building a friendship, but to see what qualities they are looking for in one. I strongly believe that friendships is what makes a child happy, and builds a better experience in school. If we can just find a way to bring these like minded individuals together in an environment that they will always be in, I think that we will be able to create a lasting experience that they will be able to say that they had/have a great group of friends who have impacted their lives.
Kid, you’ll move mountains! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!-- Dr Seuss