Sorry I Can’t Come To Your Event, My Child Has Autism
Making a good friend as an adult is one of those special unicorns that we aspire to find but rarely ever do. But when you’re a parent of a child with autism, that unicorn becomes more difficult to catch.
By Liza Walter-Larregui
This is not to say that I don’t have a handful of great people in my life I can count on when I need to vent about how awful the world is, or that I didn’t make my step count goal because I was too busy sobbing into my pillow. If only tears counted as steps, am I right?
The truth is that friends with neurotypical children, mostly, don’t get the day-to-day calamities that occur when you are caring for a special needs child.
“Let’s go see a movie!” A friend texts me.
“I can’t,” I say while I wonder if this is the last message I’ll receive after turning down every single offer made.
“I have a super babysitter. She’s so good with my kid!”
Yes, because your kid is verbal, can communicate when they need something, or if they are hurting. They are potty trained and do not ask for a “poopy change” every ten minutes due to the anxiety they feel, like my child who can’t express why they feel the way they do.
So, what happens? Do we, as special needs parents, deserve friends less than others?
No. We need friends, too. Friends that understand your anxiety about whether your kid is going to get bullied at school because he stims and flaps his hands when he’s excited. Friends that understand you can’t make it out to their birthday dinner because you are too frightened to leave your child alone with anyone that doesn’t have a BCBA in special education.
Since my son’s diagnosis, I’ve lost several friends. Some of whom were my “best friends” throughout the majority of my life. But to them, they see that I have a child and that I’m choosing motherhood over them.
In reality, my choices are limited. I’m not here to make it sound like life with a special needs child is horrible, because it’s not. But it’s hard. And anyone that tells you different is either lying or living in the same magical world as the unicorn.
So, how do we make and keep friends when we are in this bubble of the special needs world?
Meet your people; the ones that will shake their head in agreement when you tear up while describing your bedtime routine, or the lack thereof in some cases. The people who will cheer you on when you reveal your kid finally ate something other than an Oreo cookie. They are out there; these special unicorns.
You just need to know where to look. But you are never alone in this unbelievable world filled with love, laughter, and heartache. We’ve got your back, always.