Sometimes able-bodied people may feel uncomfortable speaking with someone with cerebral palsy. Here are some suggestions on how to overcome your own hesitations and get to know someone with cerebral palsy.
Offer a hand in friendship.
Sometimes people with CP might have less motor-control than yours, so you might think you’re going to offend them by offering to shake their hand. Just extend your hand and give your new friend the opportunity to shake it if they want to.
Speak directly to them.
Don’t you hate it when someone is talking about you when you’re right in front of them? People with CP feel the same way. Resist the temptation to speak to someone with CP through someone else.
Speak with them as you would with any other adult.
They are an adult, after-all. The only time this isn’t true: when you’re speaking with a kid who has CP.
Avoid leaning on their wheel chair.
To someone with CP, a wheel chair or other assistive device is like an extension of themselves. Don’t touch it unless they invite you (like: “Hey, can you push me there?”). You wouldn’t like it if some stranger started grabbing or leaning on you either.
Listen attentively - especially if they have difficulty speaking.
Sometimes people with CP have difficulty speaking. Listen patiently and actively, letting them speak for themselves. Don’t you hate it when someone tries to finish your sentences, too? If you don’t understand them say, “I don’t understand” or “Could you repeat that?” rather than fake it. It is less frustrating for someone with CP to repeat themselves than deal with someone who pretends they understand.
If you need to talk about their cerebral palsy, refer to them as “a person with cerebral palsy.”
They don’t “suffer” from CP. They are a person first - they just happen to have cerebral palsy. Want to know more about them, it’s okay to ask, “If you don’t mind me asking, why do you walk like that?” but not “What’s wrong with you?” Me? What’s wrong with YOU!
If you use an idiom that highlights their disability- relax.
“Hey, do you want to run to the store?” D’oh! That’s okay; it’s just a figure of speech