Making Friends as an Adult with SMA

Back in elementary school, the worry about making friends lingered—I feared judgment based on my wheelchair and back brace.

Making friends as a schoolchild

My hope was always that my peers would see me just like anyone else in our classroom. Luckily, that's exactly how it turned out. Throughout elementary and middle school, good friends and understanding teachers made my wheelchair and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) non-issues. It was so much easier to make friends as a kid versus making them in your early-late twenties.

Around the age of ten, a full spinal fusion corrected a 95-degree curve in my spine, leading to my homeschooling journey and a move. Missing fifth grade, I underwent home-bound instruction, where a teacher visited weekly, bringing coursework as I healed. I returned to school in 6th grade after a move to a new school district. My old fears resurfaced, yet I found myself pleasantly surprised by making new friends. Connecting and bonding over shared experiences seemed so much easier as a kid.

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Home school led to lonliness

However, during 6th grade, I began realizing the strain on my body and the difficulty of the daily school routine. Depleted energy and missed time led my parents and me to decide that homeschooling would be a better alternative.

From 7th to 12th grade, I homeschooled through various moves, feeling the drift from childhood friends whose lives were taking different paths. At this point loneliness crept in. I still had a childhood best friend that continued to visit, providing solace.

Connections are elusive with online school

After graduating highschool I entered college. I opted for online classes due to my weakening body, anticipating an easy camaraderie with classmates. The reality was different—I was the youngest, and forging connections seemed elusive.

It was then that I embarked on the quest to find friends my own age in other ways. This lead  to the most unexpected and lovely friendship through Twitter, now known as X. Live-tweeting my favorite shows initiated a decade-long friendship that I'm incredibly thankful for. Weekly meet ups to watch our favorite shows together and tweet during them became our thing. From that point on we never stopped talking.

Social media becomes a lifeline

Social media emerged as a lifeline for those with disabilities and limited mobility. The key? Find your passion, share opinions on movies and books, live-tweet your favorite shows, and don't shy away from reaching out first.

Creating a Bookstagram account for book reviews and hauls became another way to connect with beautiful people worldwide. In college, writing fanfiction and sharing personal experiences in chapter updates opened doors to a vibrant writing community that became a part of my daily life.

Those are just a few of the ways I have found to stay connected with people my own age online. But there are so many options nowadays. Online gaming, Bumble BFF, community groups on Facebook and workshops!

Online friendships can become real friends

Online friendships, like any relationships, require effort and communication. Stay open-minded, be respectful, and enjoy the process of meeting diverse and interesting people from around the world. You might find like I have that online friends can become real friends and sometimes friends that feel like family. Building friendships takes time. Don’t get discouraged if connections don’t happen immediately. Nurture conversations, invest time in getting to know others, and let relationships develop naturally.

Being disabled in your late twenties is challenging, but it doesn’t have to mean you need to be lonely too. Reflecting, I wish I had known to extend my hand sooner in the virtual world. Sometimes, reaching out online can lead to someone extending their hand back, becoming a vital aspect of your life. It's a journey I cherish, a testament to the power of virtual connections and the resilience that friendship brings, even in the face of physical challenges.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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