“Please Let Him Make Just One Friend.”
Every school season begins with the same, singular wish for my son: Please let the kind kids outnumber the bullies, let the understanding outpace the frustration, and let the other parents (and teachers) know how important it is talk openly about invisible disabilities like ADHD.
This back-to-school season, I implore you: Please talk to your kids about disabilities. Yes, we need to have conversations about physical disabilities — wheelchairs, braces, missing limbs, hearing aides — but let’s not forget to talk about the hidden disabilities that are so often missed entirely. Just because a child looks normal doesn’t mean there is not a battle going on in their brain, and that is so important for everyone — teachers, friends, relatives — to understand.
Here is what I’d like my child’s teachers and classmates to know about my son: He may say or do things that seem strange. Sometimes these things will make him a target for ridicule, judgments, and being left out. He may be “too extra” for the other kids: the extra energy, extra emotions, extra funny, extra loud, extra caring, extra attentive, etc., means he is bullied by some while other kids steer clear of him to avoid the same.
If your child is like my son, you avoid asking about if he made any new friends. Had he made a friend, the excitement of finally being accepted would be beaming across his face; we would already know our kid had exciting news.
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When the day comes that he makes a new friend, we will worry. Will this be that one friend who turns our little one’s whole world around? Or will this one fade away, too? Is this person a true friend or someone taking advantage of his heart of gold? This is the heart-breaking truth of many children and parents.
So on behalf of countless other parents, I beg you to talk to your children. Teach them to be kind and accepting of differences. Tell them to stand up to the bully picking on kids or telling other children to leave kids out of the fun. Encourage them to play with the kid on the buddy bench. Don’t let them be the bully or be the bully’s “bystander.”
One person, one friend would make a world of difference for my son. One person, just one, would turn around his whole world. Today, as I plan for another school season, I make the wish that I have for the past five years: “Please let him make just one friend.”
We may not be able to change the whole world, but we can change one person’s world. Be the change you want to see.
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