Friends are essential to life because they help guide, support and love us. Our friends keep us in line, smiling, laughing and make life worthwhile. Imagine how bland life would be without friendships? Life would be pretty dull without the fortune of friends, and having severe cerebral palsy can be an obstacle for forming friendships.
Speech impediments, involuntarily movements and not being able to walk deter some people. After all, how can you show someone who you truly are inside based on first impressions? How do you form long-lasting friendships when you have cerebral palsy? The keys are to be your true self, let your light shine and not to take friendships for granted.
As a little girl, finding friends who truly accepted me was challenging. Children tend to shy away from those who are different because they just don’t understand. Parents, please explain differences in people, so fear goes away and friendships can begin. When I spoke to or attempted to play with children without a disability, they moved away or made fun of the way I spoke. I ended up feeling sad and frustrated.
I was able to form many friendships with people who did not have disabilities. But I also attended a camp for children with disabilities, and made wonderful lasting friendships there, too. But no one really taught me how to gain friends who didn’t have disabilities.
When I landed in a fifth-grade regular classroom, my uphill battle began in making friends who had no disabilities. Being the only one with a disability in my class didn’t help, and being treated as an outcast by the teacher didn’t make things any easier.
I tended to make friends with the “bad kids” in class, because they were often sent to the back of the room. We started our friendships because they could easily make me laugh. Once they realized I had a sense of humor, they learned that I wasn’t as scary as they imagined.
A male aide came to help me, writing what I dictated, especially in math class. He was attractive, younger and showed a great sense of humor. He helped with my popularity with the girls because they liked being around him.
In seventh grade, it seemed much easier finding and making friends. A few really good friends, who also assisted me in class with books and papers, made me happier. Unfortunately, many of these friendships remained in-school only. I never received invitations to parties or after-school activities. I longed for parties, but it never happened.
The change began when I accepted myself
When I attended high school, things finally started to change socially. Having a boyfriend and more friends helped me tremendously! I found the solution, even though it challenged me to do sometimes. Accepting myself and being myself changed everything. I found that I was able to create more friendships by letting my real self shine through, sharing smiles and making eye contact.
Even now, at 42, finding and keeping new friendships can be a challenge. But having a few good friends who I know care no matter what is worth more to me than thousands of friends. I learned that it’s important to remember to be myself, and accept other people for who they truly are.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.