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10 Friends Every Parent of a Child With Special Needs Could Benefit From

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Back in November, I read an article on The Washington Post, titled “10 Types of Friends That Every Mom Needs” by Samantha Rodman. It suggests 10 types of friends any mom would benefit from having in her life. Jolene Philo, of the blog “A Different Dream for My Child,” then asked her readers what kind of friends we, as parents of children with special needs, would add to this list. This is my list of 10 types of friends any parent of a child with special needs would benefit from having in their life.

The Friend With an Older Child With Special Needs
This friend has been on this journey a little longer or a lot longer than you have. The experience and wisdom this friend has is priceless. Whether it’s a new diagnosis, surgery, medication, doctor or what have you, this friend will be encouraging and can offer understanding, something a lot of other friends may not be able to do.

The Friend With a Younger Child With Special Needs
All that wisdom and experience the afore-mentioned friend pours into you can be paid forward to this friend. This friend will be looking for support, answers and more… like you were. You will become the first friend mentioned to this person. This is a time when looking back on this journey will reveal how much it truly is worth it.

The Friend With Kids Who Do Not Have Special Needs 
This friend has either no children or a child(ren) who’s not diagnosed with any medical issues. They don’t seem to care that your child lives with medical issues. This friend genuinely likes you, wants to be your friend and is willing to embrace all that comes with your friendship – like your family and the special need your child lives with. If this friend has children living without special needs, it’s a great chance for some socialized inclusion benefiting their kids and yours. If this friend doesn’t have kids, they can treat yours like their own niece/nephew, if not their own son/daughter. Point is, they will love and support you and your child because of your friendship.

The Friend With Kids Who Like Your Child
You may have different views on parenting, politics, eating habits and more. However, this friendship is beneficial because it’s birthed out of a desire of their kids to be friends with your child. Their kids will go out of their way to talk with, play with, read with, watch movies with and more with your child. That will mean more than how you feel about organic foods or some other topic you may disagree on with this friend. The best part is this friend knows that too and that helps you both build a friendship. Talk about a win-win.


The Special Education/Resource Friend
Whether it’s whipping out a business card or Googling with lightning speed, this friend always seems to have the name, phone number, website and any other information you happen to need on the fly. This person may also happen to be well-versed in special education, either as a parent like the first friend mentioned or as a person working in the field. When you need help or encouragement for ARDs, IEPs, 504s and more, these are friends you want to have.

The MacGyver Friend
This friend will adapt, modify or build their own version of durable medical equipment, complete home modifications and more when it’s too expensive to purchase what your child could use. They understand and do the same for their own child.

The Hand-Me-Down Friend
Clothes, toys, equipment, medical supplies and more — once outgrown and no longer used — are what this friend has to offer, along with friendship. Visits include receiving and/or swapping items your child could benefit from. This friend provides a means to try before you buy, so you can keep more money in your bank for things like medicine and groceries. This friend’s example affords you another opportunity to pay it forward someday.

The Respite Friend
Just when you feel like you’re running on empty, this friend will be there for you. This friend shows up at the right time or is already visiting and sees you need a break. What could you possibly do with a break and a respite friend willing to watch your child? How about do some chores, run errands, take a nap, take a shower, read a few chapters in a book, buy groceries, or eat a meal? The possibilities are endless with this friend providing the gift of extra time.

The Follow-Through Friend
Having friends is great, but having friends you can count on is even better. I’ll pray for you or Call me if you need anything are not just cliché phrases this friend dishes out because it’s polite. They say it because they mean it. When you call them for something, they do their best to make it happen. When you ask for prayer, they actually do it. This journey can be full of let downs as often if not more than victories. Having a follow-through friend can make let downs feel a bit more victorious just because of their faithfulness.

The Friend Who Knew You Before You Were a Special Needs Parent
If we’re honest, becoming a parent changes us. Add “special needs” into the mix, and we change even more. Having a friend who knew us before we started this journey will help us take care of ourselves. We, as parents, all too often can neglect ourselves while we care for our children. Often, we’re not able to keep friendships from before. Keep them if you can. It’s possible to make new friends who will help you take care of yourself. But a friend who knew you before the life-altering, special needs parenting can encourage you to be the real you instead of parent or a spouse now and then. This friend can help you maintain or discover new hobbies, talents and just provide an emotional or creative outlet.

What Friends Would You Add to the List?

Those are the types of friends I think every special needs parent could benefit from having in their life. One person can encompass one or several of these types, but that’s not important. What’s important is that friendship should be put on your to-do list. Just like your child’s feeding schedule or other important daily routines. Are there any other friends you would list?


This post originally appeared on A Different Dream for My Child.

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Originally published: January 27, 2015
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