Three Ways to be a Friend with Someone with Cerebral Palsy

Because all friendships begin with the intention to engage in another person’s life experience in a way that it meets our need for acceptance, support, in trust, the platinum rule that says, “Treat others the way they want to be treated,” applies to all friendships.

Because life begins for everyone the same, research confirms that it is the others through whom we discover our talents and purpose in life, subsequently, it is the quality of our interpersonal relationships that determine, not only how happy we are, but also how our lives will turn out. Studies of interpersonal relationships show that the happiest people have meaningful relationships characterized by high levels of acceptance, support, and trust.

Foxtar Media presents an image of a boy with cerebral palsy. Photographed by: Smart Taps

Acceptance is a choice to behaving in trustworthy ways, and it is a type of communication that detaches any conditions and expresses unconditional respect toward the other person and his or her ideas. Acceptance is crucial because it reduces anxiety and enhances the willingness to disclose intimate information, which is the cornerstone of any friendship. “If I am afraid to tell you who I am, because if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am,” you will take away “all that I have.”

Support is a type of communication that expresses collaborative intent, and it involves encouragement and shows the confidence in the other person that he or she will manage the given situation effectively. Support is crucial because it is the intent that realizes in action, reflecting in the quality time spent together. Accordingly, support is the foundation for resilience because a person’s “autonomy is the result of the internalization of values derived from previous caring and supportive relationships.”

Trust is the mirror of many positive interactions and reflects the level of acceptance and support in a given relationship. “Interpersonal trust is built through risk and confirmation and is destroyed through risk and confirmation. Without the risk, there is no trust, and the relationship cannot move forward.”

The difficulty in building a friendship with someone who lives with cerebral palsy (CP), is not the condition but the perception of CP. Fact is that CP is one of the most common, yet least known, childhood motor disability that affects 1 in every 323 children in the United States. It is a non-progressive condition, and yet many individuals with CP live a normal, happy, and healthy life.

Fact is; CP must be seen on a spectrum; accordingly, each person has different needs and abilities; however, the truth is that every person is beautiful and every person wants  to play, explore, learn, love, and live a productive and meaningful life.

If you like to make a difference in someone else’s life and be a friend and put a smile on a face of a person with CP, please contact the Conductive Education Center of Orlando (CECO) or any other CP organization in your area.

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