I'm scared when I think about whether my son will have friends at school.
It's a lot for me to expect neurotypical 5- and 6-year-olds to know how to interact with a child who is nonverbal and gets around by crawling. Despite this challenge—whether due to his personality, birth order or disability—my son has a pretty healthy perspective on life. He likes the people who like him. Beyond that, he doesn’t really seek out much social engagement.
But I want more for him. I want people of his age to see him the way I see him. I want them to want to interact with him. I want him to have that social interaction that I can’t give him.
The good thing is that he’s got siblings who love him and don’t know him for his disability, but rather who he is as a person. He’s not “their brother with a disability,” he’s just their brother.
Is this too much to ask from kids in his class? Am I concerned for no good reason?
I think this is the most difficult part of being a parent of a child with a disability. I can deal with the isolation of losing friends. I’m fine with that. But I don’t want that for my son. I don’t want him to ever feel isolated. I want folks to know just how cool of a kid he really is.
The challenge is this entire thing of being totally responsible for his wellbeing. It’s having no control of what happens when he’s not with me. I don’t want to be a helicopter parent who constantly hovers. I want to give him freedom to be his own person. I just want the guarantee that he’s going to get what I think he deserves: friendship.
Most of my fears have nothing to do with my son specifically, but what I want for him.
And every time I go through this mental exercise, I return to one thought: He’s much stronger than I give him credit for. He's much stronger than I’ll ever be.
There is a lot more information available about sending your child with disabilities to school in the education and schools pages.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.