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Why Having Friends With Cerebral Palsy Is Important to Me

It’s very important to have people who can relate to you. Not only can this give you more comfort emotionally, but it can help build camaraderie with others. That’s why it’s always been important for me to have friends who share the same disability as me: cerebral palsy. Not only am I happier when I’m around people who share similar experiences, I also have the ability to mentor people who are younger then me and show them it’s OK to be different.

My first friend with cerebral palsy was “K.” We met at the tender age of 2 thanks to our mothers and shared the bond of sleepovers and horseback riding. We were best friends who talked about everything, laughed together and worked out together. She was there when I took my first steps in my walker and she yelled “Go Justin, go.” She was there for me when I was sad and she smiled when I was happy. When I was 14 we experimented with dating, and unfortunately this took a toll on our friendship as we no are longer as close as we once were. Sometimes I think of “K” and I enjoy reminiscing about one of the women who filled with the self-confidence I have today. If you’re reading this article I hope you’re well, sister!

There have been two constants when it comes to having friends with cerebral palsy: Kyle and Ani. Kyle and I met when we were 9 at the Center for Independence, a place where people with cerebral palsy work out to get better and build self-confidence. I served as a pseudo-mentor and we bonded over
wrestling and later women and shared experiences. Kyle’s very bright and determined and he’ll always be one of my best friends.

I met Ani a couple of years later, also at the Center. Ani is very quick-witted and funny and is not afraid to joke around with me or call me out when my ego gets too big. I still talk about the time I took her prom and bought her a corsage. We were on the dance floor all night long. Ani is an individual I can bare my soul to without fear of being judged. She will always be a person I can lean on.

One of the best things about interacting with people with disabilities is the chance to be a mentor to individuals who are younger than me. I relish the opportunity to help younger people who are having trouble adjusting to the fact that they are different. One of these girls (whom I will not mention by name), is pretty awesome in my book. She lives in a small community and often feels isolated, but when she comes to the Center you can see the effervescence and joy come out of her. I also hang out with guys who have CP and we often talk about girls, play video games or we just plain roll. The chance to give back to younger people with CP gives me happiness, purpose and understanding and helps us grow as a community together.

I enjoy having friends with disabilities because it gives me a chance to share similar experiences, be a mentor and create everlasting friendships. Having friends with disabilities is a must for me!

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Thinkstock photo by Mikanaka.