13 tips on how to treat people with different abilities

Liliana Mayo, Ph.D., and Judith LeBlanc, Ph.D.

Centro Ann Sullivan del Peru (CASP) uses the phrase "people with different abilities" (referring to people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or developmental delay) in order that families, communities, schools and workplaces pay special attention to what these people can do rather than what they can not do.

Remember that people with different abilities:

  1. Understand more than we think they do. If they are no able to talk, look at them and talk directly to them. Ask them questions they may reply with a yes or no. Include these people in the conversations with the people responsible for their care and education.
  2. When we include people with different abilities in society, we should introduce them with their names, as we do it with everybody else. For example: “He is Peter”.
  3. Wish to be treated as any other person of their same age. They also wish to be included in order to learn how to be socially accepted.
  4. Wish to be treated just like everybody else, for their good behavior or for their not so good behavior; and they want to be taught the skills they need to be socially accepted.
  5. Don’t want to be the family’s center of attention, but they do want to be part of their activities, so that they can improve their communication and socialization skills.
  6. Need to hear praise from their parents and teachers for their achievements. Encouragement helps them keep trying. Our positive or negatives comments have a great influence on their motivation.
  7. Shouldn’t be present if people are talking about the things they can not do o or they do wrong. This lowers their self-esteem and the motivation to be independent and successful in life.
  8. Want their parents to work as a team with their teachers in order to increase their learning progress and achievements in life.
  9. Have skills and therefore their teachers and coworkers should focus on the things the can do. Teach them first and then give them the chance to show what they can do.
  10. Will trust in themselves if their family, friends, teachers and coworkers believe they can achieve. If we do not expect much from them, then they will no believe in themselves.
  11. Want their education to start early because they may take a little longer to learn, but they can do it and therefore need to start when they are babies. 
  12. Want to have the same responsibilities everybody else has at home, at school and at work.
  13. Want the same love and protection other kids get. Overprotection and excessive love will prevent them from being independent and successful in life.
Thank you for treating me like a person!

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