The information contained in this blog is used by permission of Above All Else Services, Inc. aboveallelseservices.com Visit their website for more information dedicated to serving the special needs community. As an estate planning attorney that does planning for special needs, I am pleased to share the following information shared by Brandi Shinn, BSE, MSED, ASD Certificate on her website.
In my profession as an autism and behavior consultant and as the mother of a child with special needs, I am often in social situations where I find myself uncomfortable at others actions towards those with special needs. In societies defense, I firmly believe their misguided behavior is due to a lack of knowledge, the fear of the unknown, and their own feelings of inferior. In efforts to help those who may fall into that category I am going to share with you (the public) what you need to know about those with special needs….
The word DISABILITY according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means, “physically or mentally impaired in a way that substantially limits activity especially in relation to employment or education.” In 2011, the census bureau reported that 19.1% of the non-institutionalized United State Population were reported to have a disability. I would guess that anyone reading this can think of at least one person you know personally that has a disability of some sort. Research has also shown that this statistic is on the rise, so if you do not have a relative, friend, or neighbor with a disability you will in the near future….
So when this happens, do you know what to do? Unlike the majority of people in society, would you know what to say? I am guessing many of you would say “no” and that you would fall prey to the others whose behavior is often inappropriate at best. Again, because this behavior is normally best described as being caused from a lack of knowledge, I want to take this opportunity to arm you with the knowledge that is needed.
- Those with special needs or disabilities should be referred to as a child or an adult with a disability or special needs.
- Always put the child first, not the disability They are first and foremost a human being. Those with special needs or disabilities should be referred as such and secondly as having a disability, such as a child with autism, not an autistic child, or a man with blindness, not a blind man.
1. If you wouldn’t ask others the question, you probably shouldn’t ask a person with a disability the question either. For instance: don’t ask about their sex lives, their incomes, or ask personal questions such as “how do you” in relation to their disability.
2. Treat a persons wheelchair, communication device or other types of equipment as an extension of themselves. Do not lean on, play with, or use without their permission or invitation.
3. Despite the disability, treat the person age appropriately. Treat an adult like an adult. Treat a 12-year-old like a 12-year-old and a three-year old like a three-year old…. Do not talk down, baby talk, or patronize those with a disability due to their mental or physical capabilities.
4. Speak directly to the child or adult despite their capabilities of answering. or your assumptions of what they can do. Do not ask their companion questions about them without directing the question to the person themselves, although the companion may be the one to answer. Such as my son, although he is predominately nonverbal, he can answer most questions for himself, or with a little help from us. He has his own opinions and knows what he likes, and now that he has turned 12 he has become much more opinionated. He may answer you, although you may not be able to understand, which is when his companion will repeat saying, “Will, you want coke right?”… Clarifying for you what his answer was…
5. When conversing for a period of time with a person in a wheelchair, get on their eye level by pulling up a chair. Leaning over them or “talking down to them” to converse can be demeaning.
6. Be patient when talking or listening to those who have difficulty speaking. Do not dismiss them or pretend to understand if you don’t. Ask questions to clarify, repeat for confirmation or ask them to show you, draw you a picture, or write it out. On the same account, if you are telling someone something and they either ask you to repeat it several times, or they don’t seem to understand. DO NOT SAY, nevermind, it wasn’t important anyway…. It will make the person you are talking to feel very unimportant and useless as though they are wasting your time.
7. Do not help a person with a disability: A. Unless you would help someone in that similar situation who was without a disability such as opening the door for someone carrying groceries, lifting a heavy object, or getting something off a high shelf. B. Without asking if they needed help and getting their permission C. Without being asked. * Don’t be offended if they refuse, allow them the dignity of doing things for themselves.
8. In giving directions, making plans, or hosting a gathering, consider special accommodations that may need to be put in place for those in attendance. Also be forthcoming with any accommodations that are not possible such as steps with no other entrance.
9. Always treat others as you would want to be treated, or better yet, how you would want your children or grandchildren treated. Always remember that all humans deserves respect.
10. Those with special needs do not want you to feel sorry for them, if anything, they want you to understand. AND for goodness sake, please never tell a parent you are “sorry” about their child or that God has a plan, or any of those other words you might think are comforting… Parents of children with a disability accept and love their child for who they are… They are never sorry they have their child… We may often be angry, upset, or depressed about the “situation” we may currently be in, but we in no way ever regret having our child or see them as a “burden” that we wish we didn’t have…
11. Remember that persons with a disability are not all alike… They may share commonalities but each person is their own person, has their own personality, preferences, skills, and strengths. categorizing them into one lump is like saying that anyone who has cancer is going to die, which we know is not true!!!
12. Most people with a disability are not sick, unintelligent, and most definitely not contagious. Most often they are some of the smartest people around. Although they may not learn things in the same manner as many of us do, or see things in the same way. Often times they are more likely to get the true meaning of life and live life to the fullest which is something most of us without disabilities have difficulty achieving.
13. When introduced to a person with a disability offer to shake hands, if not possible, give knuckles, high fives, or touch their shoulder or arm to welcome and acknowledge their presence.
14. Keep a sense of humor and a willingness to communicate. All most people want is someone to treat them with kindness, respect and dignity. We all want to be important, loved, and cared for… Those with a disability or special need are no different from the rest of the population…. As the song goes… All we need is love, love, love all we need is love….
I hope this has help you feel more comfortable with your ability interacting with persons with special needs!
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