In A. A. Milne’s classic creation, “Winnie the Pooh,” where the ‘silly old bear’ says, “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?“‘ This sums up my feelings about friends. Friendship provides you the comfort zone when things go uphill, downhill, or nowhere. When a friend puts an arm around you, the sun comes out, and the world looks like a happier place.
Too often children with special needs are not the preferred partners of typical children. In the worst of cases, they may be bullied because they look, act and sound different than their typical peer. Many children with autism relate much better to an adult who takes the time and effort to listen and talk with them. I would suggest that when you become a friend to a person with autism, you will both learn a lot from each other.
Many parents tell me that their son or daughter doesn’t have friends at school, doesn’t get invited to classmate’s birthday parties and is truly lonely. That reflects my son Ryan’s experience. When he was preschool aged, I set up play dates, but as he got older, it was much more challenging for both of us. Sadly, he was invited to only two birthday parties throughout his school career. Did this matter to him? No. But I felt very sad. That’s why I was excited when he met Victoria through the e-Buddies program sponsored by Best Buddies. She is a young lady similar in age and living in California. Through weekly emails, Ryan learned about her hobbies, plans for college and vacations. He shared with her similar information. Their friendship blossomed, and two years later, they continue to correspond.
Friendships are a beautiful part of life and learning about friendships and how to be a good friend can be a life-long process. I’m grateful for my friends, and I’m so thankful that Ryan has the opportunity to learn the importance of being a friend. I’m also very thankful for Victoria who had the compassion to reach out to Ryan. She saw him as a person first – an individual she wanted to get to know and to form a friendship. She makes the world a brighter place for Ryan.