We often wondered what will it be like for Katelynn to make friends and build lasting friendships, like we wish for all of our children and ourselves… Katelynn had the privilege to attend a wonderful Early Childhood Program in Libertyville, IL this past year. The program was rich in acceptance, opportunity, differentiated teaching, and support; while that was all the intangibles we were excited about, a tangible relationship came with all that too- Katelynn’s best friend, Emma.
Emma and Katelynn became close friends quickly at the beginning of the year; we would read about their day together in Katelynn’s school journal and we were excited and happy Katelynn had a friend at school. Throughout the year we would get glimpses of their friendship at their birthday parties amongst their other classroom friends and were always inspired by the acceptance of others.
However, things became clearer this summer on a Sunday afternoon. We took our two girls to a local festival for a day of rides, games and treats. We bought our tickets and made a few ride selections when Katelynn’s friend, Emma, tapped Katelynn on the shoulder to say “Hi”! It was wonderful to see Emma, her parents and siblings out enjoying the day too! What happened next was when acceptance and inclusion moved from the school classroom to the community. Emma asked Katelynn if she would ride rides with her!! Katelynn of course, smiling ear to ear shouted, “Yes!”
Katelynn yelled to us, “Hey- I need my tickets!” We quickly dispersed our tickets and Emma and Katelynn spent the afternoon together riding rides, playing a few games, and chatting the entire time…they were smiling ear to ear.
To describe what it felt like that day for Katelynn to have a best friend outside of the classroom and have a true connection with a peer is nothing short of gratitude and appreciation.
We are grateful for all of the relationships Katelynn has. With each a connection and from each of those connections comes opportunity for growth, acceptance, tolerance, support, trust and humility…none of these can be defined in an IEP, in a school or in a classroom.
Having a best friend is natural, comforting, strong, and cherished; we are so happy for Katelynn- she has a best friend!!!
-Kristin Malek, mom to Katelynn