My Daughter With a Disability Made Her First Friend
My daughter Hayden’s educational aide told me that she made a new friend today; that friend was you.
I was told you had been curiously eyeballing her for the last few days of preschool and made the decision to come over and introduce yourself. I’m sorry if you had a hard time understanding why she didn’t say hello back, or didn’t make eye contact with you; those things are difficult for her right now. From what I was told though, you didn’t seem to mind. You enjoyed sitting next to her during class and checking out her secret stash of Peppa Pig books I packed to help her keep calm during circle time. It warms my heart to know you enjoy Peppa Pig just as much as she does.
Hayden’s aide said you have been spending your class time wanting to be close to Hayden and trying so hard to get her to play with you. It sounded like you may have had a little luck today when after the fifth time of trying to pass a sparkly toy wand to her, she finally accepted it and grasped it in her hand. I heard you enjoyed making crafts with her and sitting next to her during circle time. I think she enjoys playing with you as well, even though it sometimes may not look like it.
I have been stressing all summer about putting Hayden in a typical preschool program. I stressed over the notion that others wouldn’t be very accepting of her differences. My heart ached as I sat through the parental orientation, listening to everything the teachers were planning on teaching the class this year. I cried when I left that orientation thinking Hayden might feel so left out because she most likely wouldn’t be able to keep up with her classmates. As I’m sure you know, Hayden doesn’t speak and is currently quite limited in her communication. I feared the loneliness she might experience as she enters into the school system.
Even though I’m afraid, I also know it is important for her to gain as much education and interaction with other children as possible, despite some days when all I want to do is keep her safe in the bubble that is my comfort zone. As a mom I know how easy it is to say that I am and will always be my child’s best friend, their confidant. I think moms say things like that as a way to comfort themselves, to know their child will always have a friend.
To be honest with you, the notion that other kids might not want to be Hayden’s friend has been weighing on my heart since the day the doctor told us that she has a disability. I worried about other kids not understanding her, about her not getting invited to other kids’ birthday parties (even though the rest of the class was invited), and my heart sank to think that no one might show up at her birthday party.
But when I heard you were able to see past her differences, the fact that she doesn’t talk, the occasional arm flapping and her constant desire to climb everything in sight, that you were able to just see another little girl to play with — well that truly made my day. I cried tears of joy and relief on the drive home today. Thank you for embracing my daughter’s differences and including her in the typical childhood experience of making friends. I truly hope and pray that others can learn from your example and grow up being more accepting of the word “different.” You are a beautiful little soul and I’m truly honored to know that you are my daughter’s very first friend!
Photo provided by contributor.