One situation that struck me most deeply was in one of our earliest Kitchen Table Conversations, in the south central region of the province. One of these amazing mothers shared the story of her son Darren, who lives his life on the Autism spectrum as well as being visually impaired since birth. Darren has had the opportunity to be educated with same age peers in a typical school setting. The supports put in place ensured that Darren continued his school years with these peers, developing strong and lasting friendships with many classmates.
However, as is the fear of so many parents who have children with special needs (myself included back in the day), his mother was concerned that in their middle teen years that Darren would begin to see less of his friends. With everyone else having the opportunity to acquire their driver’s license and begin exploring life as the young adults that they were, her fear of Darren getting left behind was beginning to be realized.
Determined not to let this happen, the mother came up with a plan that she hoped would ensure that Darren still had the regular contact and connection that was so very important to him. Although Darren’s blindness prevented him from being able to get a driver’s license, it was not a deciding factor in whether or not he could own a car. With that, she went out and purchased one for him. She then made an offer to all of Darren’s friends. Darren’s car was available to any of them to use at any time for any event that they wanted to get to, whether it was a sports game, a dance, a concert. It didn’t matter to her. There would be gas in the car and it would be ready to go. Her only stipulation was that if they were taking the car out, they would take Darren with them.
It didn’t take long before Darren’s car was hardly ever at home. Neither was Darren! All of these friends had passed and acquired their driver’s licenses, but none of them had cars or the kind of access to a vehicle that Darren’s mom offered them. Darren’s teen years were a series of trips to Winnipeg for events of every kind. Sunday drives in the country. Cruising the main drag on a Friday evening. All the things that teen age boys thrive on when that first taste of freedom comes attached to that little piece of paper called our driver’s license.
As for Darren’s mom, she was never concerned about his safety, because these were his friends. They’d grown up together, played together and learned together. She knew that his best interest was always at the top of their minds and they appreciated the opportunity that they’d been given far too much to ever risk losing it.
Now they are all older, Darren’s car is not nearly as attractive as the vehicles his friends have managed to buy for themselves. But because of the support those relationships were given, thanks to the old car, Darren is a regular fixture in the sports cars they’ve traded up to. Brilliant!
Families do amazing things to facilitate friendship and relationship for their children with special needs. There are thousands of incredible stories out there, and we'd love to hear them! We'd love for this space to be place where families and people share their incredible stories of the things that they've done to inspire inclusion and acceptance of their loved onw in a world where differences can keep us separated, but the love of those who care keep us connected.
Just My Friend is all about that...connections, relationships and inclusion. In the end, what more really matters? The photos I chose are to bring the point home, from our own efforts in organizing Shane's own Sunshine Dreams for Kids which was one of our personal efforts to ensure that Shane's experiences included his friend and his sister...who people that could best share his story.
Do you have a story you'd like to share, or know of a family that is doing amazing things to ensure the relationships that are so important to their son or daughter's experience are being supported to continue? We would just love to hear them!
Until next time,