When you have an intellectual or developmental disability, you may face the challenge of being left out of the decision making in your own life. This means that instead of getting the opportunities that neurotypical folks do, you just don’t. This, as you can imagine, can be incredibly frustrating.
It’s not like carers or family members of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities mean to control a person–when it is done, it’s almost always done out of love, time-saving, and, a lot of the time, fear as well. All the same, not being empowered to make your own decisions takes away a huge part of what life is all about. Without promoting decision-making wherever possible, you’re catering to the disability instead of nurturing independence. Having the power to make important decisions is, well, important.
Say you’re looking to help an adult, who has an intellectual or developmental disability, to live a little, what can you do to help? Read on for 5 Ways to Help Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities with Independence.
1. Be Positive
Helping a person who has an intellectual or developmental disability to gain independence is as it is with any neurotypical person. As their guide, you need to embrace positivity and patience as much as humanly possible. Will it be hard? Sometimes, but it’ll be rewarding as well.
If you’re feeling lost in any moment, assess your own feelings, address your own fears and try to put yourself in a positive state of mind for the sake of you and everyone else. Emotions are easily readable and they’re contagious–if you’re positive, the person in your care will feel that energy and may become inspired by it too.
Learn how to celebrate every small step towards independence; everyone is learning together, really. Try to put a positive spin on “failure,” and teach failure as winning and a part of everyday life.
2. Show respect
When you’re caring for someone with an intellectual or developmental disability, keep in mind that you have a person in front of you with the same hopes, dreams, strengths, and right to be treated with respect.
Each and every person is unique, and you can encourage them to express their uniqueness. Help people discover and reinforce their own identity and offer guidance when it comes to goal-setting and planning.
3. Talk to the Person, Not the Disability
People are people are people. Imagine if everyone started talking to you in baby speak, and that went on for the rest of your life. Just the same as that would be pretty insulting on a daily basis, as is being spoken to as if you are your disability. It’s critical for the mental health of people with disabilities that they’re treated just the same as everyone else.
4. Be Empowering
One of the hardest things for a lot of people is relinquishing control, particularly if they’re scared of what will happen if they do. Unfortunately, it can be easy to take away power from an individual with a disability, but that doesn’t help anyone out in the long run.
If your goal is to help a person with their independence, then give as much power as you can. Every time there’s a decision to be made, refrain yourself from saying what they should choose and instead help the person to make their own decisions. If there’s a particular health risk involved with the decision that was made, explain that. If it’s feasible to encourage a person to make a decision even though there will be (safe) consequences, let it happen. We all learn from our own decisions and mistakes.
5. Teach Daily Life Skills
The best way to help an adult with an intellectual or developmental disability to lead an independent life is by teaching them how to navigate the everyday. That includes shopping, hygiene, laundry, checking the mail, growing vegetables, healthy eating, and socializing too.
For a person just learning how to be independent the grocery store can be a daunting place. Teach people how to shop, what to look for, how to budget, how to check out on the self-checkout aisle, how to write a shopping list, and more.
Another skill for today’s world is the use of technology. You can teach people in your care how to use a mobile phone, computer and apps, to further assist with independent living. You could guide them through the steps of getting an e-mail address, help them install useful apps, and help them to call their friends via video calling.
Above all else, remember the saying, “Nothing about me without me” and let that guide when a person with an intellectual or developmental disability should participate in decisions regarding their life.
About Stephen’s Place
If you have a loved one with developmental or intellectual disabilities, who is looking for a community to live in, please contact us for more information.
Stephen’s Place is a private-pay apartment community due to our state-of-the-art amenities and programs. We are a nonprofit and do not profit from our community. We are private pay because we spend more than some housing communities to ensure that our residents are comfortable and can safely live their lives with independence and dignity.