Special needs

Special-needs parenting: My daughter's first friend

Anchel Krishna finds joy in seeing her four-year-old daughter make her first friend.

special-needs-first-friend-Krishna

Syona bonds with her new friend, Jillian. Photo: Anchel Krishna

We’ve been lucky: Our four-year-old daughter, Syona, has a wide circle of friends. Between her cousins and family friends, her life is filled with social opportunities.

Most of the friendships that Syona has made so far grew from our existing relationships. But last week, I realized that Syona is starting to develop her own friendship with a girl from our Three To Be Parent Advocacy Link (PAL). Recently, we visited the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) with Syona and a few families from the group, including my friend Cheryl, who has two amazing daughters, Lauren and Jillian, and blogs for The Beautiful Side of Hectic. Like Syona, her daughter Jillian has cerebral palsy.

The girls have met a few times. When we organized a playdate, the three of them hit it off. Jillian and Syona go to the same school and, despite being in different grades, always manage to find each other in the hallways. They both ordered pink wheelchairs, so it wasn’t surprising that, when we met up with Cheryl and her girls at the ROM, something special happened: Syona and Jillian continued to bond outside the familiar halls of their school. They even helped each other through a couple of the inevitable near-meltdowns that occur when you combine lunchtime with a big public outing.

At one point, we caught the girls with their wheelchairs close together, leaning over each other like they were telling secrets. Syona then made a game of wheeling herself backwards so she could propel herself forward with some momentum (picture bumper cars with wheelchairs). As we continued through the ROM, Jillian coached Syona on how to propel herself forward using the rims of her wheelchair rather than the actual wheels. When Jillian and Syona got tired of this game, Lauren pushed Jillian around while I pushed Syona and we raced each other.

Near the end of the day, we were all walking down the street when Jillian and Syona informed us that they wanted to be pushed beside each other so they could hold hands. I snapped a quick picture and looked at it throughout the week to remind myself of how far Syona has come.

I realized how important friendships are for Syona. My hope is that she’ll surround herself with awesome, diverse friends of all abilities, but I think friendships with kids she naturally connects with and who face similar challenges will serve a different purpose. As Syona grows up, there will be part of her world that I won’t understand—no matter how hard I try—but Jillian will. She’ll know what cerebral palsy does to her muscles, what it feels like and how difficult it can be to get around in a wheelchair. She’ll know what it’s like to rely on someone to help you with tasks that other people your age can do independently. She’ll know how joyful it can be when you find a way to accomplish something despite your physical challenges. I’m hoping Syona and Jillian can be there for each other in the same way that her mom, Cheryl, and I are there for each other.

Here’s to the years to come—yes, even the teen years.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.

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