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  • Writer's pictureANIYSA RAIFORD


Since the age of 5 years old, I’ve learned that people treat you differently for the way you look. As I got older and my brother was diagnosed with having Autism, the way people would treat him, and us as a family would shift. It wasn’t until then, that I became more aware as to how others treated those that were special needs. It’s not most people’s fault if they aren’t aware of how insensitive they can come across to a mom at a grocery store gawking at their child while they have a meltdown, or staring at a child/adult who may have clothes that are inside out because of sensory issues with fabrics.

Most people even back then when I was 5 years old, weren’t aware of special needs and how to interact with that population of people. Even though the awareness is increasing with how close in proximity having special needs occurs in most families, there are still some people out in the world who just don’t know.

10 Tips on how to interact and treat those with special needs/disabilities.

  1. Before you give help, ask if the person needs it. The person may want to do things for herself/himself.

  2. It’s okay to ask friends or classmates about their illnesses or disabilities. But don’t be offended if your friend doesn’t want to talk about it.

  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are not sure how to actor interact with an individual.

  4. Use People First Language to tell what a person HAS, not what a person IS.

  5. Recognize that not all disabilities are visible in sight.

  6. Emphasize abilities not limitations. Say, for example, “a man walks with crutches” instead of, “he is crippled.”

  7. Treat the person as just that, a PERSON. Don’t patronize the individual because they have a physical or mental disability. An example would be: Don’t pat people in wheelchairs on the head or shoulder in place of a proper greeting. Sit down if applicable and make eye contact directly.

  8. Remember to give respect and be patient.

  9. Do not leave a person with a disability out of a conversation or activity because you feel uncomfortable or fear that he/she will feel uncomfortable. Include him or her as you would anyone else.

  10. Take time to understand the individual and make sure the individual understands you.

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