The 5 Types of Friends I Need as a Parent of Kids With Disabilities


As a family with complex needs, we are frequently asked, “How can I help?” This is a great question, but when I’m asked, it’s rare that my needs are met. It’s not because the asker has empty intentions, and it’s not because the needs are unattainable. It’s because some needs are time sensitive, or because I don’t really know how you can help, you do.

What I can do is share the five types of friends I need as I parent kids with disabilities:

1. The “Person”

Perhaps some of you have watched Grey’s Anatomy, so you know about the close, transparent and unique friendship between Meredith and Christina. We all need a person who will come when we call,  no questions asked. Maybe we need help getting to urgent care, or who knows what else we need our “person” for. Volunteer at your own risk.

2. The Runner

Nope, I don’t mean a jogging partner (unless it’s horizontal running, like Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect). We need help with errands. Walmart grocery pick-up is a life saver! Having a runner is also a life saver when our doctor calls in a prescription but we are sleep deprived zombies and cannot get there on our own.

Runners are the real MVP, if I’m being honest. You mean, I don’t have to put on pants and get my three small children out of the house? You’re my new best friend.

3. The Enabler

I know what I’m doing when I ask for a frozen pizza. We both know I need to be eating clean to improve my health, but when I call you and tell you I have a pint of ice cream to share with you, don’t ask questions, unless you need to know what movie to bring.

4. The Babysitter

Two of my three children have unique needs; caring for them while I’m away is a hit and miss experience. One child has sensory issues which lead to listening issues, which lead to discipline issues. My other child has an expressive language disorder — apraxia. Sometimes, she doesn’t open her mouth while she’s busy talking. Our primary form of communication is ASL, or guessing. What does this mean? This means you may need to learn a little about autism spectrum disorder and how that looks in my oldest, talkative, brilliant kiddo. It means you may need to learn ASL. It means my kids will build trust with you, and you may see our ugly side… but man, do we need someone like you.

5. The Constant

For me, it’s my husband. For others it’s a wife, a significant other, a parent, a friend. We need you, and we need to give and receive love with you. Notice, I did not just say we need to be loved? We sometimes find ourselves incredibly weighed down by our circumstances which can lead to loneliness or depression. You are a light in the darkness. A constant.

Before I paint you as a martyr or saint, please know this role does not include a pedestal. We just want to feel alive. So let’s do life together. Let’s do mundane things together. Tell me what you need and let’s talk about how to achieve it. Let’s both create goals and do the nitty gritty of plotting out action steps, together. My chronic health issues, due to dysautonomia, may always be a factor, but where there’s a will (and a good support system) there’s a way.

Friends, you are needed. If you don’t see yourself as one of these friends, maybe we can brainstorm a little and I can update my list later on. The world isn’t what it used to be, where we easily intersected with our village, organically. With inventions like social media, I can (and do) have a close friend on the other side of the world. With a little creativity, anyone can get involved.

My potential village is vast. I may not share every single detail of my journey, but I know you are listening. Do you want to help? Pick a job, this is going to be fun!

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty image by Ridofranz


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Disability

depressed man sitting on couch with laptop

Why You Shouldn't Be Jealous When Depression Makes Me Do Nothing All Day

My dad is enjoying his retirement: he golfs as much as he can, enjoys early weekday mornings on the patio with his cup of coffee and crossword puzzle, and no longer has to carry a second cell phone to field work calls at the most inconvenient of times. He spent 30 years of his life [...]
Ellie Wilkie and her dad

A Morning Show Cut an Inspiring Mental Health Segment – and People Aren't Happy

Last week, Ellie Wilkie shared a photo on Twitter celebrating her father, who survived a suicide attempt at the beginning of the year. Now, as the year comes to a close, he’s a recovery support worker, and her tweet sharing the news quickly went viral. “Words can’t describe how proud we are,” she wrote. “It’s okay [...]

Why the Holidays Are Hard for Me as a Christian Single With Depression

As a person of faith, I thank God each day for all the people in my life that I love and cherish so much. I feel very fortunate to have strong relationships with my parents, siblings and close friends. They have all helped me so much, without complaint, for nearly seven years since I became [...]
Desperate young woman curled up in bed

When You Beat Yourself Up for 'Being Lazy' as Someone With Depression

One of the biggest myths about depression that the mental health community has been trying to bust is that people with depression are “just lazy.” Can’t hold down a job because of your depression? Lazy. House always a mess because your depression means you can’t face cleaning it? Lazy. Spend all day in bed because [...]