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!