What is the problem?

Challenges in Forming Relationships

Creating and maintaining relationships can be particularly challenging for those living with cerebral palsy. Factors that may contribute to these difficulties include:

  • Self-Esteem: Low self-esteem can hinder the ability to form and maintain relationships.
  • Developmental Delays: These may impact social skills and the ability to interact with peers.
  • Social Anxiety: Anxiety in social situations can make forming connections difficult.
  • Communication Barriers: Coexisting conditions, such as speech may impact communication.

Overcoming Obstacles

Despite these challenges, individuals with CP can build fulfilling relationships. Here are some ways to improve social and intimate relationships:

  1. Skill Development: Focusing on building communication, social, and emotional skills can greatly enhance relationship-building abilities.
  2. Group Activities: Participation in group activities and outings can foster social connections.
  3. Support Groups: Connecting with others who have similar experiences.
  4. Community Activities: Participating in events at local libraries, churches, or community centres.

Improving Relationships

Skills to Develop

  • Communication and Conversation Skills: Essential for effective interaction.
  • Social and Emotional Skills: Important for understanding and managing emotions in relationships.
  • Friendship and Relationship Education: Learning about healthy relationships.
  • Participation in Group Activities: Engaging in social activities to build connections.

Understanding the Impact of CP on Relationships

Research shows that while young adults with CP can form social relationships, they often struggle to develop intimate ones. Factors affecting these relationships include:

  • Psychological Factors: Self-esteem, self-efficacy, and social confidence.
  • Parental Influence: Overprotection and negative attitudes can impact self-efficacy.
  • Physical Access: Ensuring venues and activities are accessible.

Tips for Dating and Relationships

  • Communication is Key: Openly discuss your disability with potential partners to avoid awkwardness.
  • Be Open and Confident: Focus on your strengths and what you can offer in a relationship.
  • Plan Accessible Dates: Ensure that date locations are accessible and comfortable for both parties.
  • Stay Positive: Maintain a positive attitude and work on self-improvement to build confidence.
  • Seek Solutions Together: Address relationship obstacles through open communication and mutual support.


Relationships for individuals with cerebral palsy are just as possible and fulfilling as for those without disabilities. By focusing on skill development, early socialization, and open communication, adults and young adults with CP can form meaningful and lasting relationships. Remember, everyone deserves to love and be loved, whether it be in a heterosexual or same sex relationship. With the right support and mindset, individuals with CP can enjoy rich, rewarding relationships and lead fulfilling lives.

Sexual Health and Relationships

Impact of Disability on Sex Life

Disability can significantly influence one’s sex life, affecting both the way sex is experienced and its frequency. Adults with cerebral palsy (CP) face numerous barriers in maintaining an active sex life, including:

  • Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem: Many individuals with disabilities struggle with body image and confidence, which can affect their sexual relationships.
  • Finding a Partner: The challenges of dating and forming intimate relationships can be more pronounced for people with disabilities.
  • Physical and Emotional Barriers: Disabilities may require adaptations for sexual activity and can also introduce emotional complexities.

Barriers to Sexual Health

These barriers are not unique to individuals with disabilities; however, the stigma and lack of conversation around sex and disability exacerbate the issue. Key areas where support is lacking include:

  • Education: Targeted relationships and sex education for young disabled individuals is almost non-existent.
  • Support for Couples: There is limited support available for couples dealing with the impact of disability on their relationship.
  • Access to Sexual Health Services: Disabled individuals often face challenges in accessing basic sexual health services, such as STI screenings.

Addressing the Gap

To improve the sexual health and relationships of adults with CP, it is crucial to:

  1. Promote Open Conversations: Encourage discussions about sex and disability to reduce stigma and increase awareness.
  2. Provide Targeted Education: Develop and offer sex education programs specifically tailored for disabled individuals.
  3. Enhance Support Services: Increase the availability of support for couples and individuals navigating relationships and sexual health.
  4. Improve Accessibility: Ensure sexual health services are accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.

Everyone deserves a fulfilling and active sex life. By addressing these barriers and promoting inclusivity, we can help adults with cerebral palsy enjoy healthier, more satisfying relationships.


Listen to our ambassador Scarlett when she talked about her experiences dating with a disability

Organisations that can offer advice and support
Enhance the UK

Scarlett Murray is a 22 year-old mother of one, and a talented writer who blogs about her experiences of living with Cerebral Palsy. Her form of CP is left-sided hemiphlegia. She tells us her story.

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Young woman with little girl (Scarlett Murray and daughter)

Clive Gilbert is a leading policy expert on assistive technology for disabled people, drawing in part, on his own experiences living with Cerebral Palsy. He tells us his story.

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Man using assistive technology (Clive Gilbert)