Why JJ's Friendship Episode on 'Speechless' Had Me in Tears

On Wednesday’s “Speechless” episode, a classmate invited JJ to go watch a movie at a movie theater. It happens all the time, right? Friends make plans to go hang out and have fun.

JJ is not so sure this will work out, because his past experiences have taught him friendships do not last long, or only go so far once “friends” realize they can’t handle having a friend with a disability.

I personally do not have a disability, but have two children who do. My experiences and perceptions only come from being a parent, and from where I stand, friendship is one of my greatest “worries” for my kids. While my girls are loved and accepted by their peers (much like JJ seems to be), true friendships are not something my girls have experienced.

My youngest daughter, who has Down syndrome, has been calling her two sisters her “best friends” for a few years. It is a true statement. While she has friends at school who love her and include her, she does not have friends who invite her over for play dates. This year, she has yet to receive a birthday party invitation.

My daughter, who has cerebral palsy, is more social and has good friends at school. But already she has expressed similar feelings to those of JJ. She feels most comfortable when she has a parent or family member readily available in case she needs assistance. While she might not say, “my sisters are my best friends” like her little sister does, this is also her reality.

This friendship thing is hard. I want my kids to have friends, and I know they want friends, too. True friends. The fact this is not their reality is something that breaks my heart as their parent. Often.

At the end of the episode, once it is established JJ’s new friend, Aaron, wants a friendship that includes JJ’s disability, JJ makes a comment saying he believes it is the beginning of a true friendship. That was the statement that brought me to tears. Yes, I was happy JJ finally had a friend, and yes, I cried because I thought, I want that for my kids, too. Will they ever have that friend?

But I also cried because JJ didn’t have this friend until he was 18, and that reality devastated me. I don’t want my kids to go through their childhood without having real and true friendships. I don’t want my kids to experience so much ableism they believe their disability is “too much” for someone, or that they are a “burden” because of their needs. I want my kids to have a friend who will love them completely, disability included, needs included, awesomeness included. All of them.

I don’t want this isolation and struggle with friendships to be their reality until they are 18… or older.

I want my kids to have friends.

If you parent a kid with disabilities, can you relate to this? What have you done to help your kids connect to friends? Let us know in the comments.

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