Friendships When You’re A Special Needs Parent

Sam Bowen by Sam Bowen Additional Needs

Sam Bowen

Sam Bowen

Hi I’m Sam, Mum to Lucy who is has complex special needs but is the happiest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting! I own Hip-Pose Ltd, a br...

I know lots of people and am friendly to them but, to me, friendship - true friendship - takes time and effort.

I’m in short supply of both of these things.

The ones that are my true friends I am dedicated to and with them it doesn’t feel like an effort anyway.

These friends have always stayed and even when we had not met up for years, when we did it felt as if no time had passed at all.

Some of this changed however when I had my daughter, who just happened to be born with an incredibly rare genetic abnormality and as a result is profoundly disabled.

People who had been long-standing friends suddenly were not.

One or two simply disappeared, and in my disbelief, I kept chasing them!

Some came clean and said they didn’t know how to be a friend anymore and others just acted so crassly that I decided to avoid them.

I do understand that, sometimes, in a crisis, people don’t know what to say, but I honestly didn’t feel that I had changed so, why had our friendships?

New, "friends", emerged from my going to baby groups etc, but as their babies developed and mine didn’t the gaps in our friendships grew bigger.

In an argument with one (via text!) it emerged that she had only been friends because she felt sorry for me.

Another revealed her true colours when showed up in public.

We were in a swimming pool at the time and I was inwardly drowning at the sadness of it all.

I let it go thinking perhaps I’d over reacted but when she backed out of coming to my daughter’s birthday party and suggested I, “Cancel it and save the money if not enough people were going”, I couldn’t deny it any longer.

Then, a truly transforming thing happened.

My daughter started at a special needs school.

I joined the PTA in order to meet other people and become involved in the school life and almost overnight met the most amazing group of human beings I’d ever encountered.

It was fast-paced, no nonsense friendship-making on a speed dating level.

Within months, I knew quadruple the number of special needs parents I had known before and made some incredibly insightful friendships.

For the first time in my life, I am in a big group of friends.

We support each other, listen to each other, challenge each other and sometimes slightly tease each other.

But most of all, I know that everyone of these amazing women understands me, have felt what I feel, relate to my hopes and fears and are not afraid to say anything.

They are all simply real, not an ounce of fake or pretence.

I love them for it and I feel like I have been friends with them my whole life.

Without them, things would be much harder.

And although I would not have wished our lives on anyone of us, we are who we are because of our situations and having children with special needs.

For me, this is an important point to building new friendships with people who have not experienced this unique world as now, I don’t expect them to understand what it’s like.

I no longer need them to.

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