Determining who is a direct care provider and who is a friend can be difficult for young people with disabilities as well as for their parents. This is something my own parents and I often differ about. While I do understand the need for parents of young adults with disabilities to feel that their child is well looked after and safe, particularly when the parents are not there, I also understand the needs and desires of young people with disabilities to have a social life and social relationships and to do things typical peers their age do.
While I understand that I have always needed care on some level and always will for the rest of my life, I don’t want every relationship I develop in my life to be that of a care provider. I don’t think it necessary, nor do I think it appropriate.
My parents suggest that I offer payment to my friends when they repeatedly help me with something, particularly as a way of saying, “Thank you for being in our child’s life to look after her because we can’t always do it for her.” I also know that it makes my parents feel comfortable to offer payment to show their appreciation. Once my friends have established with me that they will not accept money, I do not open the subject for discussion again, because I know they are right: friends aren’t paid to hang out with friends.
Making Friends on Your Own Is Important
I understand why my parents feel compelled to do this, but I also think this is potentially setting up a very slippery slope for a child in adulthood. Encouraging a child to pay friends for providing help that comes because of a diagnosed disability is almost setting him or her up to not truly be able to make friends on his or her own.
I do a couple of things to show my appreciation, because I think that’s important in a friendship. Sometimes I’ll drop off a pack of Combos or a box of Mike and Ike’s or whatever it is that I know my friend enjoys. Just because–but not as payment. Or if I know my friend is going through a tough time, I’ll send them a nice text to show that I care. Paying attention to what your friends enjoy or whatever is going on their lives is important, as is communication and follow-up.
If, in the course of our time together, a provider were to become a friend, that’s fine. However, a young adult should be able to find his or her own social circle without having to pay for interaction or attention. They deserve that, and parents deserve to feel comfortable letting them make their own choices (within reason) and lead their own lives. Only then do they truly become adults.