The Beautiful Moments That Showed Me My Child With Special Needs Has a True Friend
I’m standing next to my daughter, Samantha, as she sits in her wheelchair. I see Cameron approaching us, and he stops by to say hello. I watch as he bends down, looks at Sam, pats her on the shoulder and greets her. He compliments her on her appearance and then gently pulls a piece of her hair out of her mouth.
Cameron is 16 years old and a junior in high school. He’s 6 feet tall, 195 pounds and one of the captains on the high school varsity wrestling team. He has been Samantha’s best friend for eight years, and though he and Sam have never been able to exchange a single word and their eye contact is minimal, she lights up when she’s sees him, giggles and takes his hand. My heart smiles.
Sam is 15 years old and a freshman in high school. She was born with a cleft lip and palate and was diagnosed with a chromosome 18q deletion at age 2. As a result, she is deaf, nonverbal and has severe cognitive and developmental delays.
Sam met Cameron through an elementary school Special Buddies program I created in our school district when Sam was in first grade. Back then, I noticed that her typically developing peers were staring at her and making comments about her. They were uncertain of her abilities, so she was often alone on the playground and in her own world. This made me sad. I didn’t want Sam to be alone in her own world, so my goal was to change this situation by raising awareness and sharing Sam with her peers.
Sam is very sweet, loving and funny and manages to uplift anyone who takes the time to know her. Many might not know this by just looking at her, but Cameron did. He was in third grade and was instantly connected to Sam when he became her special buddy. Soon he became Sam’s challenger baseball buddy, and he grew to know and understand her and continued to be her “special buddy.”
Over the years, Cameron began to assist me at Sam’s summer day camps and go to the movies and sporting events with her. He attends her Special Olympics Texas competitions, visits her at home and always remembers her on special occasions. For her 8th grade dance, he gave her a lovely wrist corsage, and this school year he gave her a beautiful homecoming mum that his sweet, loving mother (and great friend to me) made and modified especially for Sam. I was so touched, I cried.
Cameron isn’t just Sam’s “buddy.” He is her true friend.
He isn’t her friend because he needs to earn service hours.
He isn’t her friend because he wants to reap rewards or praise.
He is her friend because he loves her and cares about her so genuinely and personally.
Cameron sees Sam.
He embraces their similarities, respects their differences and has earned Sam’s love and trust in return.
I have to admit that I was fearful their friendship would change as they both grew older. But as time passes, it keeps growing stronger. He may not realize this, but Cam has given Sam the social, emotional and practical support in life that every human being needs.
His time, love, dedication, patience, understanding and genuine friendship have helped Sam gain the power to integrate into our community. Cameron is a true blessing. For this, I am grateful.
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