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When My Daughter Was Diagnosed With the Same Disability as My Best Friend

Raising a child with any sort of disability, even a mild one, can feel overwhelming at times. However, living with a disability often feels incredibly isolating for children, especially if they don’t know anyone else who lives with the same condition and they rarely see themselves portrayed in mainstream media.

Luckily for my daughter and me, that isn’t the case because my daughter lives with the same neurological condition as one of my best friends.

From the very beginning, my youngest daughter’s developmental timeline looked very different from her older sister’s. We dismissed her struggles with weight gain and clinginess to her early birth. Our pediatrician assumed her consistency in hitting developmental milestones a bit late simply made her a “late bloomer” and nothing more. After all, she was still meeting milestones and she wasn’t completely failing to thrive, which meant the chances of anything being “wrong” appeared fairly low.

By early 2018, however, her gross and fine motor deficits became increasingly obvious. I didn’t want to assume anything was “wrong” with my child, but I also desperately wanted answers. So, I did what any concerned mother would do: I turned to the internet for research. The more I read online, the more I couldn’t help but wonder if my child had cerebral palsy — the same condition as my best friend.

As soon as I expressed my concerns to my best friend, she became our lifeline for the entire diagnosis process and beyond. We have spent many late nights discussing details of my daughter’s condition, including specialists she needs to see and ways I can validate her experiences.

Receiving a disability diagnosis is never easy, but my friend helped us navigate every step of the process. She also provided her own personal stories from childhood to help me learn what to expect and how to cope with difficult moments my child may face.

But I firmly believe the most important thing my friend has provided is validation and comfort for my daughter.

From the first time they met, my daughter instantly felt drawn to my friend. She opened up to her instantly, and the two formed an inseparable bond that remains strong to this day.

My daughter knows that my best friend lives with cerebral palsy as well, and she relishes the fact that they both deal with the same things. As my daughter continues to discover the ins and outs of her condition, my friend provides constant support, love, and validation every step of the way.

My friend cheers my daughter on as she reaches new heights and makes significant progress in various therapies, and she comforts her on the difficult days where she feels invisible and misunderstood. She shares personal stories with my daughter to help her feel less alone, and they collectively complain about tasks that are much harder than they really need to be.

My friend also constantly shows my child exactly what she can achieve despite any physical limitations she deals with. She helps her understand that she can persevere even when the world is unwilling to accommodate her needs.

My daughter thinks the world of my best friend. In fact, she sees her as a sort of superhero and role model. Because of this, she frequently aspires to be just like my best friend, and it’s incredibly sweet to watch. They regularly talk on the phone and video chat, about everything and nothing. They are inseparable when together in person, and my daughter latches to my friend every chance she gets.

As my daughter continues to discover her uniqueness more and more, I know that my best friend will continue to support her and love her through the most difficult moments and the most exciting victories that are yet to come. It’s hard to fully express just how much my friend’s presence means in our lives and all of the ways she’s positively influenced my daughter in the few years that have passed since her diagnosis.

I can’t stress the importance of influential role models enough, especially for children like my daughter who live with a disability. By having someone in her life who has been there and understands, my daughter not only feels less alone, but she feels validated in her thoughts and feelings about her condition and life in general.

I feel incredibly lucky that the Universe brought my best friend and me together. However, I feel even luckier that my daughter gets to grow up with such an incredible role model and support system.

This story originally appeared on moms.com