My daughter, Klaryssia was heartbroken last night.
She works as an unpaid helper for the Value Village near her high school. It's part of a vocational training program for higher functioning students in the special needs program who have educational goals directed toward independence after graduation. Well, semi-independence. Klaryssia will have to live in some type of supported living situation no matter what. She won't ever be able to live on her own.
It's not just safety concerns, although there are plenty of those. She is seventeen and is still learning basic household precautionary stuff. Like when she helps rinse dishes for the dishwasher, she usually turns the water all the way hot - not realizing that she could burn her hands. She's not safe with knives yet, either. She handles them like a young child might with no awareness of the danger from the cutting edge.
Basically, she's a six-year-old teenage girl. Her hormones and feelings are right up there around her chronological age, but her educational, social, and emotional functioning is somewhere in the first grader range. I think that's about as high as she will get.
Now, on the one hand that could be great for her. Living in a early elementary school daze just before the world gets really painful could be sweet. How simple life was in first grade, remember? Snacks and naps and coloring "I Love You" cards for everyone...Klaryssia will still pick yellow dandelions and bring them home for me and put them in water.
But on the flip side, she has that teenage thing looming. Not just the wild hormonal mood swings, but the trying to grow up stuff, too. She doesn't really have friends. For one thing, she is pretty annoying. Truly. Despite all the medications she's on, she has an incredibly amped up metabolism. This hyper-metabolism frequently results in non-stop talking at above conversational levels, and at such a high rate of speed very few people can understand what she's saying. She wants to be understood though, so she will repeat what she's saying over and over until you semi-get it.
Usually, these conversations are about her. What she had to eat today, what she will have to eat for her next meal, what her plan is for the day(taking a shower, taking out the garbage...etc), and she usually has the weather forecast for the week. Occasionally, she will throw you a bone, like, "What did you have for lunch today?". If you stop and ask her does she really want to know, she'll answer honestly, "No".
At school in her contained classroom there are a few kids that are pretty impulsive (that's the PC word for out of control). Because she can be so up in their faces and so annoying, she often gets punched.
Not too many friends.
So, here she is at Value Village. There of course, are co-workers that are what we in the Special Needs universe call "typical" people. This means they aren't mentally retarded. At least they don't appear to be. Most of last week and up through yesterday, Klaryssia came home very excited (she usually is about something). Apparently, co-laborer was due to celebrate her birthday, and wanted Klaryssia to come. I, the dutiful mom, asked who this person was. The information got non-informative.
Her age went as high as forty-two and as low as sixteen (after I expressed some doubt about my seventeen year old going to a forty-two year old's party). I told Klaryssia what I always do. Bring me home something in writing about this party and we will see.
Nothing ever made it home. But yesterday was apparently party day. She came home from school talking non-stop. Party, party, party. In Klaryssia's mind, her friend was going to call her and tell us where it was to be. She had a vague idea that it was on "119th Street". No address, no phone number for the friend, but it was supposed to start at 4:30.
Klaryssia raced through her chores, took a shower, got into clean clothes and had her jacket and purse set out in the living room, all ready to go. Then she waited.
Klaryssia can tell time. She watched the clock. She watched the phone. Her brothers came home on the bus. I started dinner. Every once and a while, she would remind me that her friend would be calling to tell us where the party was.
Of course, she never called.
Klaryssia started crying around 5:30. She was inconsolable. She wouldn't even eat dinner (and Klaryssia LOVES food). I don't know when she finally stopped crying, her eyes were pretty swollen this morning when she got up. When I asked her if she was okay, she said "Sure", and started telling me about how this friend would be at work today and something about how they would have fun...then she showed me a piece of gum this person apparently gave her yesterday. We spent a few minutes talking about that and how awesome it was that her friend gave her this gum.
Today, Klaryssia will go back to Value Village and see this lady who for whatever reason - probably well-intentioned but uninformed - did not make it clear to a little retarded girl that she wasn't actually invited to the party. I'm sure that this lady has no idea how truly important it was to Klaryssia. How very focused on the party she was, and how utterly heart-broken she was when it didn't happen. I'm also sure that Klaryssia won't tell her, because in Klaryssia's mind, it's all okay. She's excused this person, made up a story in her own mind that makes it okay.
I however, am her mom. And I will remain heartbroken for Klaryssia. I don't have any help for this, I can't make it go away for her. But I do wish people would realize that mentally retarded people do actually have feelings. We may not understand them, and we may not completely identify with them, but they are people. I love my odd ball daughter, and I am hurting for her today.