Friendship enhances life. Although before enjoying any enrichment, you must undergo a traditional welcoming ritual. Said ritual you know as making friends. Making friends can prove intimidating for anyone. Add cerebral palsy to the process and suddenly the intimidation escalates.
First comes any accessibility issues. For example, I love baseball. However, maneuvering around a ballpark remains an issue. Say I go to the concession stand for a hot dog and beer. Since I need a rail to safely navigate steps I require a friend’s help returning to my seat. Such a need can make one feel apprehensive about going with friends to a game.
Individuals with more severe cerebral palsy face even more issues. Curbs and stairs turn an ordinary night out into an obstacle course. You may end up feeling like a burden. That leaves you thinking “Who would want to be my friend?”
STOP! I am not here to encourage dwelling on negativity. As my regular readers know I am about solutions. Prepare to shift into positivity. Implement the following 11 tips. Do so and everyone will want to call you friend.
The first step to making friends stands the same for everyone. Able-bodied, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities alike! Meet new people. These initial tips empower you to map out and expand your personal connections.
1. Partake in Online Support Groups
If you want a friend who understands life with CP, partake in online cerebral palsy support groups. Regular online interaction will naturally transition a peer with CP into friend. My two-plus years running #CPChatNow provide my evidence.
2. Volunteer At Senior Centers
Again, this tip supplies friends who can relate to cerebral palsy. Seniors tend to deal with more health concerns. While not directly CP, you should discover common ground. I theorize based off my time visiting my out-of-state grandmother.
Quick disclaimer, moving forward tips extend beyond empathy to overall friendship.
3. Revisit Old Acquaintances
Old acquaintances offer an overlooked resource for friendship. Maybe you fondly remember a classmate from high school. Reach out on Facebook! I am guessing the other person will find your message a pleasant surprise.
4. Join a Club
Clubs offer great opportunities to meet others with milar interests. Unfortunately you will likely encounter awkwardness that comes from people’s ignorance about disabilities. Tips five through seven will assist you to move beyond the awkward.
Settle into the Driver’s Seat!
Considering I do not drive, I am speaking metaphorically. View life as a party bus. You possess the keys because you hold the control. Start the party!
Imagine walking into a room filled with people. Who do you want to interact with? Probably the person smiling! Smiles attract people. So go ahead and smile.
6. Talk Positive
Sure, life with cerebral palsy contains negatives. Avoid adding to those negatives, trouble making friends. Upon early interactions stay positive. Keep your thoughts and discussions cheerful.
Use humor to defend against looming negativity. I recall in college slipping on a wet spot in the dining hall. Given my already less than stellar balance I fell. Rather than sulking in embarrassment I stood up and shouted “Dry campus my @$$!”An ability to laugh at yourself makes you fun to hang around.
Own the Road
Now you sit map out, in the party bus’s driver seat. Only one last item resides. Hit the metaphorical gas (standard pedal or hand control) by taking action.
8. Send an Invite
Take the initiative and invite people to your place or favorite restaurant. By dictating the environment you remove accessibility barriers. As a bonus when you send invites, others may reciprocate. I learned that lesson with my high school graduation party.
9. Speak Up
Unfortunately a reciprocated invitation could create the previously avoided accessibility concerns. Politely explain your issue. A good friend will understand and try to accommodate.
10. Answer Questions
Encourage friends to ask questions about your CP. When someone seems hesitate to ask her question, bring up the subject. The more they know, the more comfortable they will feel around you.
11. Recommend Further Resources
Certainly you bare no responsibilities to serve as a cerebral palsy spokesperson. Thus if someone shows curiosity and you prefer not answering questions, refer your friend to other resources. I am perfectly happy to serve as a CP spokesperson. Recommend my blog, my Yotube channel, or better yet my memoir Off Balanced.
Enough self-promotion! I apologize. Let us return to the subject at hand, making friends despite cerebral palsy. Which tip garnered your attention? Do you know another tip for making friends? Please share by commenting below.
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