I never really thought that Liam would have any friends.
Aside from the impact that Liam has on all of our own friends and relatives how does a kid who can’t walk or talk and is not only confined to a wheelchair but also attached to a machine that breathes for him going to really make any friendships with the kids his own age without one of his parents there to help communicate for him?
Shame on me. Once again I foolishly underestimated my own son.
I still have no idea what the answer is but what I do know now is that he can. I know this because of the pictures. Oh, the wonderful pictures that Liam comes home from school with. Pictures from his teacher and from his nurse. Pictures that I wish I could show you but won’t since they contain other children in Liam’s class. Not just his classmates.
They’re Liam’s friends.
I can only tell you the tales we hear. Tales of his buddy “A” who wanted so badly to “ride Horses” with Liam that he stuffed Liam’s wheelchair with the toy horses from the classroom’s dress-up section, saving one for himself and then making Liam’s nurse push him around the class while they held hands.
Tales of friends who high-five Liam every morning then breathe on their own hands before holding them to Liam’s peep valve showing their understanding of where Liam’s own breaths come from. Tales told through pictures now hanging on my fridge of the three-way telephone game with two friends wearing novelty sunglasses because Liam gets to wear glasses all day and they want to wear some too.
If you read this blog a year ago you may remember my anxiety about Liam heading off to school. I had a hard time trying to see how Liam would fit into an environment of kids of all abilities. My biggest fear was that Liam would be left uninvolved in group activities off in a corner somewhere. It makes me so happy to report how incredibly wrong I was.
I underestimated the level of competence and kindness of the therapists and teachers that we have grown to admire so much. I underestimated the sense of fearlessness, curiosity, and compassion of children who are too young to be scared of Liam because of his special needs. But worst of all of my needless worry was that I underestimated the personality, energy, and love that Liam communicates without words.
I was wrong. Wrong on all counts. Liam has learned so much at school this past year. He’s taken his first steps, learned to make choices between different toys and even how to ride a bike. All of that is more than I ever thought would be possible. But those are things that Karin and I have been bracing ourselves to accept since we were told he wouldn’t do any of them when he was only three weeks old. While focusing on improvement in or acceptance of Liam’s developmental milestones I didn’t expect to worry about Liam’s social skills until we started leaving Liam at school three months ago.
I read enough special needs blogs to know that we are very lucky and school won’t always be this easy. That the stress of writing quantifiable goals and I.E.P.s will continue to increase and get more complicated. That the ever-changing budgetary needs of school districts will affect the availability of services that Liam will need. When those things do happen I hope that I can look back at these days and remember the true value of sending Liam to school. That kids need to be around other kids and Liam is no different in that. I didn’t think that I would ever see Liam put one foot in front of the other and walk forward until he did it.
Liam has friends now.
I’ve never been so proud to be so wrong.