How do I get peoiple past my disability so I can make friends?

Dear Anyone.

I’ve got Cerebral Palsy, Hydrocephalus and Dyspraxia, which is more a result of the other two than an extra disability in its own right. The first two affect my face - I’m well aware I look like I’ve just left my spaceship in the car-park, I’ve been told similar on many occasions. I DO have learning disabilities but they’re oddball - they all seem to centre around relationships/friendships, not knowing how to make/keep them. Imagine you’re on stage in a play and you suddenly realise you don’t know your lines or even what the play’s called. Or you’re in a bar where everyone’s perfectly friendly - it’s just they’re all speaking Spanish and you don’t know a word of the language. How would you learn it? How would you get so you could fit in with them?

Looking the way I do has many other drawbacks - think ‘Elephant Man’ movie. Literally everything that happened to him in that film has happened to me, it was like watching my own biography on screen. I used to avoid school because if I went I just got my books torn up by the other kids. I never had friendships at school, if anyone tried to associate with me they were laughed to scorn by the others. I’d get beaten up by entire classes - and yelled at by my father for not standing up to them more.

Thing is as I grew older, things never changed. I seemed to fall between the stools of disability and able-bodiedness, neither one nor the other I got ridiculed by both. I went to a couple of Training Colleges and at both was constantly ridiculed by the others, if I tried to put my name down for extracurricular activities it was crossed out, at one even the teacher would ridicule me. It was a computer programming course, my programs would be working but he’d press a key you’d never press at that point and go ‘Oh dear. Crashed again?’ And all the others would laugh. If I tried to sit with any of them at mealtimes, they’d warn me off. I got so scared of the others that if there wasn’t a single table free at mealtimes, I didn’t go in. I was too scared.

This carried on in another town, where my family moved to. The town is a bit of a dumping ground for people nobody knows what to do with. I was beaten up, mugged and burgled so often over the next nearly 20 years that the police made the Council move me into a Residential Home. I had all my teeth kicked out, legs intentionally swamped in boiling water, skull cracked, every flat they gave me robbed. I tried to find voluntary work but hit the glass ceiling - if you’re a volunteer, you’re an able-bodied person Doing your Bit for the Poor Crips. One of the crips wanting to be a volunteer seems to have exactly the same flavour as a coloured guy wanting to join the KKK. It just does not happen. I volunteered for everything in sight, got one post in a day centre and that’s where I got the boiling water chucked over me, by a girl who didn’t approve of a ‘spazmo’ working behind the teabar.

I’m forty-nine now and in all those years I’ve never had friends, nor been in groups with people, nor had dates. I’ve been barred from many places for TRYING to have friends - sometimes it’s because the person I THOUGHT was an acquaintance told the landlord he didn’t want ‘that weirdo’ talking to him, sometimes the premise owners just do it off their own bat because they don’t want a ‘weirdoi’ disturbing the customers. Two examples of many - I’m banned from a local tourist attraction (they moved me to another town after the care home closed, I’m in an ordinary flat here) because a bunch of student girtls screamed when they saw this weirdo - moi! - looking at them and the bouncer said he couldn’t have me scaring the customers so he bounced me. All I was doing was eating an ice-cream! And I’m banned from a local pub after a workman guy who was having a drink there came up to me with a bouncer - different bouncer - and said ‘I haven’t come here to look at Frankenstein all afternoon, either you bounce him or I will!’ I got in a few better knocks than they expected, but I still got bounced. And I’m getting more and more scared of more and more locals, it’s just such an incredibly lonely feeling.

Please, I want tips on how to get people PAST the fact I look odd so I can fit in with them as a fellow human being. OK I’ve got a learning disability - topological dyspraxia if you want the posh term - but I’m not like the autistic/Down’s Syndrome groups they keep putting me into. I’ve nothing AGAINST any of them but I can’t seem to get on their wavelengths. I never know what to do or say. And if I try to be a helper with them I hit the glass ceiling again - nobody lets you. Computers are my strong suit, I designed software to help a bunch of them recently but nobody even let me show them the software. I’ve neverr worked that one out!

I don’t want to spend an entire life in isolation just because I ‘look odd’. Anyone got any ideas?

Yours hopefully

Hi ulrichburke

Do you have any contact with a disability rights organisation? I suspect one could probably help on a few different fronts. Firstly, they’re organisations through which one makes contacts with other people, some who may become friends. Secondly, by hearing each others experiences you can get tips from other people who have had similar experiences. Thirdly, members or staff in them probably could point you in the direction of legally challenging some of the discriminatory things that have happened to you. Fourthly, they’re good at helping people collectively fight for their rights (i.e. so that you and others aren’t treated like you’ve been treated).

Also, have you been able to meet anyone online? Often online friendships can lead to off-line friendships.

Good luck!