People with disabilities often have the same goals, desires and need for acceptance as everyone else. However, some of life’s daily tasks can pose challenges for them that neurotypicals might not endure. Unfortunately, this can be harmful to well-being and self-esteem.
For those who work with vulnerable populations, like those with disabilities, it’s important to validate them and take their hardships seriously. However, struggling shouldn’t have to lead to suffering. You can do your part to help people with disabilities overcome these struggles through positive actions and affirmations.
These affirmations refer to the way people think and perceive themselves. And by providing people with encouragement, assistance and an open ear, you can help them overcome adversity and accomplish what they initially thought was impossible.
What things can people with disabilities struggle with?
There are some skills and abilities neurotypicals take for granted. While people with disabilities can accomplish those same tasks, it can require more focus, along with mental and physical effort. Some of those tasks can include:
- Executive functioning: Paying attention, organizing and planning.
- Emotional regulation: Exerting control over thoughts, feelings and actions.
- Certain motor skills: Cooking, cleaning, opening doors, walking down a hallway, etc.
When people with disabilities see neurotypicals who can carry out these functions with ease, it can lower their confidence and make them feel like their differences are something to be ashamed of. Dehumanizing or punishing people with disabilities won’t help them recognize their potential or help them overcome their challenges.
But, through positive actions and affirmations, you can help give them the confidence they deserve to overcome adversity and live their best lives.
How can I make the most of positive actions and affirmation?
Affirmations can be helpful, but it’s important to act and deliver them in a way that’s not patronizing. Here’s what is and isn’t helpful:
- Asking if they need help: If you see a person with a disability struggling, asking if they need assistance isn’t debilitating or patronizing. If they accept your help, it’s important to ask how they would like your help. If they can’t answer the question directly, try asking more specific questions about what they’re struggling with and if doing something specific could assist them.
- Validating their frustrations: To you, the task that the person with a disability is struggling with may be something that comes naturally. However, that same task could require more physical or mental effort on their part. In these situations, it’s important to acknowledge their adversity and that they shouldn’t feel ashamed for struggling with it.
- Using positive reinforcement: People, whether they have disabilities or not, tend to respond better to positive messages than negative ones. When working with someone who has a disability, always encourage them to repeat the behavior that helped them succeed. That reinforcement could be as simple as a smile, a pat on the back or a compliment for a job well done.
What’s not helpful
- Helping them without asking first: Even though we’re taught to jump in when we see someone struggling, it can feel condescending to a person with a disability if they didn’t ask for help. And in some cases, trying to help them might even make things worse.
- Talking down to them: People with disabilities want and deserve equal treatment. Talking down to them when they’re struggling can hurt their self-esteem and exacerbate the anguish they’re already feeling, making it more difficult to complete certain tasks.
- Feeling sorry for them: Your sympathy may come from a good place, but it’s not always helpful for a person with a disability who is struggling with a task. Many people don’t want sympathy, they want the same opportunity as others to live a life of dignity.
Everyone faces different obstacles
We all have hardships in our lives. And no matter who people are and what hardships they face, they deserve to be treated with validation, dignity and respect.
When you engage people with disabilities with positive actions and affirmations, you’re not only giving them the courage and empathy they need, you’re empowering them to live their life to the fullest and affirming that no matter what they struggle with, they can face and accomplish those tasks head on.
Pinnacle Services understands the needs and challenges of those with disabilities and is looking for direct support professionals like you who can be a role model and guide to those we serve.
Interested in working with us? Check out our website and see what we have available for open positions.