Monday, June 20, 2011

Part of a Group...NOT THAT GROUP!

Kalisha has always been looking for a friend, or friends, or a group of friends, like she believes everyone else has. Like Kenny Rogers' song, " Looking for friends in all the wrong places" has gotten her into LOTS of bad and dangerous situations, but I just want to discuss 'groups' of friends in this post; and that has provided some irritating, maddening and sometimes, quite humorous situations.
When she was in elementary school, she played softball in a league that consisted of teams of special needs players. The children had varying degrees of physical and mental handicaps. The volunteers who organized and worked with these children did an excellent job, from pushing some around the bases in wheelchairs to helping each batter hit the ball. They found sponsors for shirts and hats, arranged for pictures to be taken and had trophies. Kalisha went through the motions, but she really wanted to be on a "regular" team like her classmates  and her niece.

When she was in high school, the administration thought they were doing something great by setting up a special section in the cafeteria for all of the special ed students, so they could eat lunch together. Kalisha did not want to eat with 'those kids' and would take her tray to the tables with the footall players and the cheerleaders...anyone who was popular. Besides the fact that none of them would ever let her set with them, she found herself in trouble with the lunchroom authorities because she caused a disturbance.
We were contacted by a group called the Best Buddies. They were trying to match young people with a disability, to a college student. These 'friends' would get together perhaps once a month and do some activity. I was very excited. It sounded perfect to me; however, I wasn't the one involved. Kalisha and I talked about it before the first meeting and I tried my best to make it sound like the best thing since sliced bread. We attended the preliminary meeting, and unfortunately, there were hardly any college students there, so it never did fly, but after seeing some of the severely handicapped people in attendance, Kalisha was not at all interested in being a part of it.
Before you decide that she is the biggest snob on the planet, I should interject that she doesn't know how to relate to people whom she can't communicate with any better than most of us do. I also believe they frighten her, and she really doesn't see herself as having anything in common with them.
A girl she met on the city bus told her about a bowling league for people with any kind of disability. Kalisha has bowled a few times and enjoyed it. Great! A good place for fun, meeting other people, good exercise, the whole package. It was not to be. She went one Saturday (I went along to make sure someone knew she was there, get shoes, etc.) but she would never go back.
I discovered that our church denomination has several bible study groups around town that meet twice a month, discuss a story, do a craft, and have a snack. These have been in existence for years, so I was excited about getting Kalisha involved. She went twice, but I knew from the look on her face after the first one that this wasn't going to be a long term thing. After observing, I would say that she probably was too high functioning for these particular classes.
Kalisha and I attended a wedding reception and sat at a table with the parents of a young man who had suffered a brain injury in an auto accident. They were raving about a new facility in our city. It was like a home school envoronment, with many varied life skill classes from photography to cooking to gardening. I was ecstatic! I saw it as an act of God that we were seated at the same table with these parents. When I mentioned it to her case manager, he knew about it and the person who runs it. He had several clients there. Kalisha's behavioral consultant had heard great things about it, too.
We went to visit. A great place; unfortunately, not in Kalisha's opinion. (sigh)
One last story. Kalisha had a boyfriend named James. James attended a church that was several miles across town from our house. He invited Kalisha to go to bible class with him. A church van would come to his apartment and pick him up and I was supposed to have Kalisha there at a certain time. The van came early, we missed it, I drove all the way to the church, found someone who helped us locate the 'special needs' bible class and rushed her down the hall so she wouldn't be embarassed by walking in late. (I shouldn't have worried about her being embarassed) She would not enter the room. James came to the door and pleaded with her to come in with him. She resolutely refused and since none of us got the hint, she said, as loudly as she could, "I am not going in there with all those disabled people!"
Oh my gosh! I grabbed her arm and rushed her back down that hall and into the car. After I banged my head on the steering wheel a couple of times, I tried desperately to understand this child of mine. I asked, "Why wouldn't you go in there?" "You are one of them whether you think so or not." "We have discussed this so many times, Kalisha" "You are one of the kindest people I know."  "You know how much it hurts your feelings when people say unkind things to you." "What is up with this attitude??"
She can't answer my questions. She doesn't know the answers. She only knows that she doesn't want to be part of a group of people that the world considers to be different. She doesn't want to be different.
 And in reality, do any of us want to be different? Do I want to be part of a group that is comprised of senior citizens that are a lot older than me? No! Somebody might see all of us together and think I am that old too. That doesn't mean I don't like them, I just don't want to be part of that group.

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