With the birth of the new group Borderline, an association for parents of persons with mild learning disabilities, I thought some of my worries would be solved. My 24-year-old son Colm, with very slight learning problems, had tremendous difficulty making and keeping friends. Young people of normal intelligence either were not interested or exploited him, and he would not associate with anyone who looked or acted the slightest bit ‘different’.
At the first meeting of Borderline last year, I asked if any other parents had the same problem and, if so, could I take the names of sons and daughters in the age bracket of 18–30, with a view to forming a group to socialise and make friends. Of the 34 names given to me, 11 were outside that age group or had quite severe disabilities. I wrote to the parents of the other 23, enclosing an invitation from my son inviting the young people to go bowling on the next Saturday afternoon, after meeting at a city centre venue. Thirteen parents telephoned or wrote saying that that particular date wasn’t convenient for them, but to keep them in mind in the future. Six of the remaining ten actually arrived on the afternoon. My son greeted them and they had their bowling game together. Although they all seemed rather shy and nervous, and hurried away after the bowling, he thought they would like to meet again. We arranged an afternoon at a nearby seaside resort for the following weekend. This time five young people attended. Colm and Fiona met on that occasion, and were immediately attracted to each other.
Meanwhile, I contacted various organisations and local attractions and was delighted that they all agreed to offer reduced-price or complimentary tickets to the group. With this in mind, I attempted to organise further outings, but I’m afraid I met with little success, mainly due to the fall-off in numbers.
On the down-side, the friendships and socialising which I thought were essential for Colm died a natural death. On the up-side, two young people, who never before had someone to love and to be loved by, one year later have a companionship which is now developing and growing deeply. They’re going on holiday together this summer.