I am often asked if Joshua has friends of his own age, and while he is sociable and enjoys the company of people, he does not have friends as such who he sees regularly and who he relates to particularly well. There are young people at school who he is more fond of than others, peers that he gravitates towards, but he is most friendly with the staff, he has certain teaching assistants and teachers who he will seek out, rush up to and give one of his bear hugs to, they are left in no doubt as to who they are. It would be lovely if he had the same bond with one or two of his peers, but that has not really happened as he has got older. There have not been equal balances of give and take : over the years he has attracted girls who have wanted to mother him and take care of him, and he has happily allowed them to do that. He has warmed to them but it has not really been reciprocal, he has only returned their attention with hugs and smiles.
A true friendship, in my experience, is one of give and take and that balance can shift over time, but always remains in balance. Your best friends know what you need instinctively, without having to ask you and sometimes that can mean just being quietly there in the background. Just due to his disabilities, Joshua is inevitably more of a ‘taker’ but he gives back in the best ways that he knows and has the ability to make people feel loved. Communication might be key to friendship and being non verbal might be holding Joshua back from making good friends, as he cannot offer verbal support or encouragement, and he does not respond to tears with a reassuring hug. But that does not mean that he is unfeeling or uncaring. Rather than offering traditional comfort when someone he cares about is upset, he might well employ his sense of humour as a distraction technique, to try to lift the mood.
When he first stayed at respite in the spring, he was the only client they had staying there while he underwent transition, but now they are busier with more clients. I would love to think that Joshua could build a rapport with the other residents, so that they can share and enjoy activities together and that would be another valuable aspect of respite, if such relationships could develop out of sharing the same weekends together. But in the meantime, I cannot wait to see my son back home tonight as I have missed all those hugs and smiles.