This weekend we went to Earth Fest in our local park. I’m not sure what was particularly Earthy about it, but there was live music and the usual stuff for kids to play on, so we went. They’ve even got a water feature that Charlie enjoys.

I met up with a girl I knew in college. We weren’t best friends or anything, but she now lives minutes away, has a child about Charlie’s age, and perhaps most importantly, she works as an audiologist and does all the parish’s screenings for Early Intervention and the school board. She gets special needs, and she’s really positive about Charlie and the work I do with him.

I’ve noticed two things these days:

I’ve noticed that the people who I spend my time with all fall into one category–people who are accepting of Charlie. They might be people who know something about special needs–through their jobs or personal life, Internet buddies in the same boat, or even old friends who don’t seem phased by this new development in my life.

I’ve also noticed that in the end, we’re not that different–any of us. I find myself focusing on the similarities: picky eating habits, preschool worries, and Disney World. It might be a form of coping, but I like to know that we’ve all got some things in common. At the end of the day, focusing on what I have in common with other people makes me feel happier and more connected.
Tell me about your friends. . . do they understand you and your child? Do you feel like there’s common ground? Have your friendships changed lately?

PS: I’m looking for ideas for upcoming Units–please tell me what kinds of things you’d like to see us study!
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  1. I love how closely he is looking at that world. Just like he is examining every piece and wants to learn it all. So exciting to see as a mom!

  2. After Anna's diagnosis, one of my "best friends" told me she just didn't know how to relate to me anymore since she had a normal kid. Needless to say our friendship has never been the same. Aside from her I feel like most of my friendships have stayed the same or been strengthened as I have seen people reach out to try and understand what we are going through. I have developed many more internet friends though. I want to see a unit on safari animals. I do not know why…I just do.

  3. Tell you about my friends…

    In the past year SO much has changed with our friendships, we have lost so many and gained some in the process too.

    We lost a lot of friends because they just didn't know how to act around us or Zach (even though they had been around since he was born)

    We have made so many amazing new friends, we have met them online, Zach's therapists, Zach's Dr.s and people who have just fallen in love with our little man.

    The friends that are still around are the ones that have always been comfortable with us and Zach no matter what. The ones that support and love us even if they think they would do it differently. Those who don't worry about their kids being friend with the SN kid. Those who let our kids figure out how their friendship will work and stop worrying about how they can play together.

    It really is amazing how at different phases of our life our friendships can change so drastically and so fast.

  4. Katy,
    I want you to know I have been sneaking reads in between a hundred different projects; I am somewhat caught up but I am sorry I haven't commented on anything recently.
    What I don't really understand is, how can anyone NOT be accepting of Charlie? Maybe I'm not clear on your definition of accepting, or maybe you guys encounter a lot of ashholes. Would I know how to hold him, or would I automatically sense what kinds of activities he could or could not participate in? No–but I would still want to hold him and play with him and get to know him better. Your son is adorable and gorgeous, and from some of the stuff you've written, he can be a lot like my own son. I sure wish I could have met him last month!
    Anyway, not that you need my approval or acceptance, but the teaching units and whatnots posts? Awesome.

  5. I have felt as if everyone has showered love and support upon our family since Elisabeth was born 2.5 years ago. It's a wonderful thing. Glad you're feeling the love too :)

  6. Witkowski Family says:

    Ack! Charlie is so stinkin' cute.

    I tend to have friends who "get it" as well; I'm going through some turmoil with a friend who does NOT get it, but I thought she got it and it's obvious that's she's never GONNA get it, which is unfortunate because I adore her. But when it comes down to it, I find that friends who get it are the ones who stick around. Kind of sad, but it's reality.

  7. I have to say we are lucky to have very understanding friends. Most have reached out and have been great. Some do not understand what we are going through and we do not see them as often. I have to tell you my husband is from a big family. Seven kids. His Mom is an angel and his sister is wonderful. It is some of the others that I am shocked at. They never reach out to help. We hardly see them and they live in the same town. One of them has a sister with severe cp and she ended up taking care of her. She is in a group home now. I think she just can not believe we have a special needs son. She can not deal with it. As for units my sons teacher has great ideas. Right now they are doing a spring unit and growing plants and talking and learning about the sun and rain. He brought home a little container with grass growing in it. They watched the grass grow! He was so proud to show me. I will share some of the other units with you.

  8. Wahzat Gayle says:

    The sad thing about having a special needs child is that you may lose some friends, but you also gain new ones who really understand what you are going through. I have been fortunate that I have been able to keep most of my friends but I know so many who have had friends not be able to cope or wish to understand.

    fglad you had such a fun-filled friend day I need one of those right about now LOL

  9. Miss Burb says:

    Honestly, I feel like I've lost pretty much all my friends. Sometimes I wonder if it's because I pushed everyone away when LJ was in the hospital or if it's because they just don't know how to relate. but we hardly have many friends.

    I've been making more of an effort, though. I've joined online groups. I've met a couple of gals in real life who have children with SN. it's tough for me to feel completely comftorable, though, because I feel like I'm the youngest mom of a child with SN that I know. although, in the end, it doesn't REALLY matter. I think I've always been a bit paranoid like that.

    I do have a friend that we've been trying to hang out with that has two typical girls and they did really well with my boys last time, so I see future play dates!

    the sad thing is, that most of my family doesn't talk to me. they did that before, but I thought having a child would help them want to be involved. since they are so un-involved I can SEE the awkwardness coming from them when we're around. even the family members that ARE involved, don't really "get it"

    as for future teachings? I'm not sure what your next lesson plan should be, but I'm having trouble starting out. my son has lots of issues like poor trunk control and CVI and he's not cognitively 3, but I'd still like him to learn. I'm just wondering how I should start. I was thinking colors because it doesn't require SEEING a shape but he's so drawn to red that I wonder if that color should be left out. Also, should I start slow? One color a week? Two? Agh, my brain is already hurting, lol.

    that was long. probably should have been an email :)

  10. My friends seem to have learned so much from Jude. I have heard over and over how people used to look through others with diabilities, but now they take the time to actually see them. I think that is a great lesson he has taught my friends.

  11. Noah's Mom says:

    We are about to find out. We moved to PA because of my diagnosis in utero. Haven't been home since we had Noah. We are planning a trip back home in July and my friends and family will all get to meet him. I'm a bit nervous to put it mildly.

  12. Our experience has been pretty much the same as yours. We lost some friends, we gained a lot more. And the ones who stuck with us were not always the ones we thought would. After Loren died some of the friends we "lost" made contact again. Needless to say, I don't feel the same about them anymore. We recently made new friends with two kids with special needs. They stayed with us one night on their way to go on holiday and they've been back twice since. They feel that we "get" what they feel. It's a good feeling for us as well, because we can discuss our son with them without getting the "better-this-way" reaction.

  13. Jesus…I have no friends who aren't family, if I am gonna be honest. I have family, and I have "acquaintances."

    Pathetic, I guess, but I'm ok with it. I'm too busy to worry about it, at any rate!

  14. We were pretty lucky…most of our friends were supportive during the early years with Elena. Maybe it helped that very few of them had kids. It was very hard for us to be around other little babies, seeing them do all these wonderful things while E lagged behind or just never did them. After we sent out a letter to family and friends about what we knew of E's diagnosis, things were much easier, b/c there wasn't the "elephant in the room"–friends didn't want to say anything that might offend us, and it gave everyone a place to start.
    I guess the big change with me is I just don't go out much anymore. I'm an extreme extravert, so shutting in is pretty hard on me. I don't blame it on being a SN parent, though…I think all of us parents wish we had more time, period! I do try to be friendly to families that have a member with an obvious disability, to try to show them kindness. E helps, she's pretty vocal when she sees someone "with a walker like I used to have" or "crutches like I have" and chats them right up.
    As far as units…magnets, texture boxes, the beach, opposites, family…I've never done something like this, but maybe it'll give you an idea?