A mistake that is made by many who are not familiar with children and adults with disabilities is to discuss their challenges in front of them. The perception is that if someone doesn’t speak, or if someone has intellectual disabilities, they won’t understand what is being said. Very often, this is definitely not the case.
As I have discussed in the past, Ryan has had challenges with his behavior over the years. I’ve been in numerous situations with a variety of professionals who have asked me, with Ryan present, “Tell me about Ryan’s issues.” Of course, Ryan’s ears immediately perk up. He gets a grin on his face and he waits to hear what I have to say. At this juncture, I suggest to the professional that it might be best for us to discuss these issues without Ryan present. It’s not until I suggest this that the person fully understands the ramifications of talking about him in front of him.
I was reminded of how upsetting this can be to parents when I came across this article in Autism Speaks: http://bit.ly/2ffbu2d. There are some very good recommendations included here.
Both professionals as well as members of the community at large need to re-think their generalizations about people with disabilities. It’s always good to remember: when you know one person with autism, you know simply one person.