When he was a baby I remember watching two children companionably walking through a park holding hands and thinking sadly that it was something Freddie would never experience. How much time did I waste worrying about things that never turned out like I expected?!
Freddie has a fab best friend called Amber. Until he was about 7 he had lots of company, but no particular best friend or close companionship. When he was 7 we moved house. Along with the upheaval of moving I wondered how on earth he'd cope with having to move schools and make new friends. The term before he started at his new school I had a meeting with the Headmaster and gave him a short A4 sheet I'd done to introduce Freddie to the children. The Head copied it and gave it to all the children who were going to be in Freddie's class. Amber was walking home with her Mum and said to her "there's a new boy starting in our class next term. I think he sounds really nice, I hope he'll be my friend."
Freddie and Amber have been best buddies since the first day of term and he's lucky to have a friend who isn't bothered about his lack of speech - she can talk enough for both of them, has the patience to wait for him to catch up, the confidence not to take any nonsense, the imagination to think up wonderful games and just enjoys his company. To watch the two of them giggling over silly drawings or watching films is just like watching any other ten year olds. They both have lots of other friends but together they just click.
Amber came over for tea this evening after school. First of all they both flopped onto beanbags watching TV, then I chased them off and they went with Freddie's younger brother Samuel to play with a couple of models Freddie had got for Christmas - they made monsters then painted a model rocket.
My eldest son George who's 12 decided to cook their tea; I think he's been inspired by Masterchef! Great, it gives me a bit of a break and time to do this blog. He still needs to have his food cut up as he doesn't chew well and hasn't the co-ordination to do it himself; it tends to end up on the floor. He also still needs a straw for drinking. For a long time he used a baby cup but we decided it was getting a bit babyish, and we kept forgetting the cups when we went out, so his speech therapist helped us teach him to use a straw instead. It's much easier to keep a straw in your handbag!
After tea I took them both to a youth group run by a local church. The group starts quite late at 6:30 and Freddie only started going last September as before that he was just too tired in the evenings. Lots of children from the local school go to the group and they all know Freddie. There are lots of helpers so it's one of the few things Freddie can do without constant close adult supervision. He always has a great time there.
Another of my friends picked them up with her son. For a long time I worried about letting other people look after him, mainly because I worried that it would be too much responsibility for them or that he would do something they couldn't cope with. However, he's never done anything friends haven't taken in their stride - including trying to run out of a sealife center and locking himself in a toilet; all normal-for-Freddie. However, if you don't trust other people to help then caring can take over your life and particularly when we first moved house I found myself doing things for him 24/7. I think that other people really want to help, but are sometimes not sure how to offer. I don't think I've ever asked anyone if they could help with Freddie and them say no, even the friend who found herself stuck with no clean cloths and a very soggy child still has him over to play - he came home in her daughter's rather girly trousers!
Friends aren't always easy for Freddie as children can be wary of people who are different or who don't behave in a predictable way. They can't help but notice that Freddie's different and I've found that if they understand why, they are more patient with him and everyone has far more fun. To help I've made a book which I give to friends to read with their children. You can download a copy of the book here. Please feel free to copy the idea - I copied it from someone else in the first place!