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What I Tell My Son With Special Needs When He’s Sad About Not Having Friends

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My son, S., is a special person with a heart made of gold. S. has autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, OCD-like tendencies, global developmental delays, gastroparesis and a carnitine deficiency, so he’s what people would consider “medically fragile” or “special needs.” To me, he’s just a precious little boy who’s a little behind than most and has his own set of quirks.

In the last year, after lots of intensive therapies, he’s made a lot of progress. Because he seems so much happier since then, nothing could’ve prepared me for what he told me on a recent afternoon.

He just came home from school, but he wasn’t his usual peppy self. He sat down on the couch and got his distant “zombie Elvis” look. I got his attention and told him it was time to go to his therapy appointments. He gave me a look that spoke volumes to the amount of sadness he felt, then he said, “Mommy, I like P., N., and C. (his classmates), but I don’t have any friends. I want friends, but I don’t have any.”

My heart shattered for him at that very moment.

My poor baby shouldn’t feel this way at 4 years old. If he feels this way now, what’s going to happen when he gets older?

I scooped him up in my arms, and his little brother gave him a big hug. I told him, “I’m your friend, and so is D.” (D. is his brother.) “And we’ll always be your best friends.” S. got up and and got in his car seat with a smile on his face. That was good enough for him.

I still think about that moment, though. D. and I are enough for him for now, but I know there will come a time when we won’t be, and it breaks my heart. He tries so hard to make friends; he’s just not capable of doing so at this point, and I don’t know how to help him.

I’m sorry, my precious little love. I don’t really have the answers for you, and I know I won’t always be the friend you’re looking for, but I’ll always be here for you. I’ll help you in any way I can, and I promise you’ll have a friend in me for as long as my heart is beating.

I know you’re a little rough sometimes because you don’t always know how strong you are or where your body is. I know you try your hardest to make friends. I know you initiate conversations, but you can’t always maintain them. I know you run in circles and flap around trying to calm yourself down. Maybe it scares the other kids, and they don’t get to see how sweet you are. I wish they could, baby, but know this: One day, someone will come along, and they will love you. They will see past all your quirks and love you for the sweet, beautiful little boy you are.

So stand tall and proud, baby boy. You are perfect just the way you are, and everything else will fall into place.

Originally published: October 30, 2015
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