Having a disability can be overwhelming in a lot of different ways. It can make us feel like we are not experiencing the world as it is and as we should be. The disabilities we are born with or we accidentally have can limit us and limit how we live our lives, and this can cause a lot of us to feel depressed. A study has shown that people who live with disabilities double their chances of developing mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Family is the foundation of life and the basic unit of society which is traditionally composed of a parent and their children. It is where people usually experienced “firsts” in their lives – first joy, pain, love, and other kinds of emotions. A family can be the source of strength or weakness of an individual. It can be one’s strength because it gives the motivation to fulfill our dreams and goals in life – or weakness because it makes us down if problems are experienced by any of the family members. And one big hurdle that a family has to experience would be having a family member who has a physical disability.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which is at the helm of the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, or Covid-19, estimated about one billion people of the world’s population of about 15 percent, suffers from some form of disability. This is not an ignorable figure.
Thousands of people live with at least one disability all over the world. Most people even have concealed disabilities, such as mental illness, and still, find the will and the strength to live their lives to the fullest. We all know the negative stigma towards disabled people, but a lot has changed since then. Psychologists have shown in their recent studies there are better chances for disabled people in the world we live in today.
Understanding your disability and treating it as strength, could be the key to opening doors to lots of opportunities, and the path to your success. To be able to live the life you want, you must stop using your disabilities an excuse to avoid doing things you want to do. You must value yourself and look at your disability as something that makes you unique, something that makes you a hard worker, something that pushes you to do twice as much as everyone else.
“In our psychology practice, we use a strengths-based approach for assessments, counseling, and treatment versus a more traditional pathologizing model,” writes Dan Peters Ph.D.
According to an expert at BetterHelp, it is imperative to practice self-value by realizing your disabilities do not define who you are or what your life has to be like. Develop high self-esteem, avoid blaming yourself, and know you are not responsible for your disabilities, and having them does not mean it ultimately hinders you from a good life. You must understand that the only thing standing in the way of your happiness is yourself; that your success does not rely on the disability itself. Seeing it as strength is merely a plus.
So how exactly do we acknowledge disability as strength? How do we use that to our advantage?
Explore Your Strengths
Know what you are good at, what you like doing, and how your disability positively affects these things. Focus on the attributes you have that make you stand out, things you do uniquely. Encourage yourself to see your disability through a lens of uniqueness, opportunity, and goodness. Working with what you are good at is essential so you know what you can apply yourself to.
Do Not Limit Yourself Because Of Your Disabilities
It is common for disabled people to shy away from activities because they believe they cannot do these things. Limiting yourself is not going to get you anywhere. You must remember that you can have the same life, opportunities, and experiences as everyone else in this world. It is up to you to make an action and take control.
“Acknowledge that these are beliefs, not truths! This is often the hardest step. ‘But, but, my limitations are real!’ Here’s the place where choice comes in. Which are you more interested in: defending your limitations to the death or achieving your goals and desires?” writes Matt James Ph.D.
Remember That Just Like Everyone Else, Your Life Has Meaning
We all live with a purpose, with various abilities to contribute to the world. Do not let society convince you that you do not deserve a happy, fulfilled, and functional life. You were born into this world to live with luster, to explore and use every bit of talent in your body. Do not let anyone convince you otherwise.
“What all these people have in common is that through undergoing intense suffering, they “woke up.” They stopped taking life, the world, and other people for granted,” writes Steve Taylor Ph.D.
Always Ask For What You Need
As people with disabilities, it is essential to acknowledge what you will need to be able to work the way you want to. Ask for things that will help you live the way you want, be vocal about the changes you need in your environment to progress your lifestyle as soon as possible. Never keep to yourself when you know you need something. If you need a particular space for you to work or think, if you want to learn a specific topic or skill that you feel you can excel in, you name it. Remember to be vocal, because staying silent will not help you get anywhere. It is vital that you remind yourself that you should tell people they need to be there.
Envision yourself in the life you want, and do not stop working until you reach your goals. Everyone lives with a disability; it is just how we choose to live that makes us different. Separating yourself from the negative stereotype and acknowledging your disability as strength is just the beginning of a successful journey. Encourage the world to see disabled people through a multi-faceted lens. Show the world you are not your disability. It is your obligation to represent yourself and that it is merely one part of who you are.
Everyday people from the disabled community break social, cultural, and technological barriers all over the world. There are artists, athletes, humanitarians who continue to show the world that their disabilities do not hinder them from creating and contributing beautiful things to the world. Learning that your disability is strength is one part of your journey, the way you use it in this world is what matters the most. Remind yourself that you have no limits and that you deserve to experience life the way every single person on this earth does.
Counseling individuals with a developmental disability – e.g., autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury, and Down syndrome – is honestly tough. Your clients are mostly kids who acquired the neurological disorder from birth or several years after that. They have not lived long enough to identify how to think and behave like regular people. Developmental disabilities are attributable to a cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or both. They manifest during the developmental period from birth to early adulthood, and are likely to continue indefinitely,” explains Clarissa Kripke, M.D. of the University of California. It may even be easier to get through to depressed or addicted folks as they at least lived a life without such a condition in the past.
It does not help either that most – if not all – developmental disabilities are incurable. It’s hard to decide if that is because the problem is too complex to resolve or there’s only a little research being done on the subject matter. The outcome is that the children who have the disorders mentioned above usually need to stay on therapy for years. “If you are looking for a way to make an important contribution to the services available in your town or city or you have been searching for a niche to help you stand out from the professional crowd, consider learning how to tailor therapy to this unique and rewarding population,” notes licensed psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.
Nonetheless, in case you are new at giving counseling to someone with a developmental disability, check out the following tips.
- Earn Their Trust
The unfortunate truth about disabled individuals who are older than five years old is that they may have been exposed to the world. That cannot produce a positive impact on the person all the time because they get to deal with the harsh comments from other people, no matter how much their family tries to protect them. Some gaze at them pitifully; others are inconsiderate enough to talk about their flaws openly.
The thing is, whether the disability altered someone’s brain function or not, he or she can still realize at one point that strangers see them differently. It may enable them to retreat under their shell and not want to even be around mental health professionals like you. Because of that, you ought to earn their trust first.
The easiest way to do that is by not pushing the client to do the activities you laid out. It will not be the only meeting you’ll have, and perhaps he or she can become comfortable around you the more you stay in their life. You may also learn about their favorites so that it can be like a conversation starter between the two of you.
- Assess Non-Verbal Cues
When someone has a developmental disability, it entails that he or she has problems using his or her senses or body parts regularly. For instance, the twinkling lights that look fun for non-disabled people are triggering for folks with autism. Walking is practically impossible for cerebral palsy patients. Others have issues with their speech, behavior, and deduction process.
Even if the individual refuses or cannot speak, an excellent counselor should be able to understand the client by assessing their body language. Say, in case a patient who has never looked up when you tell a story suddenly meets your eyes, that is a sign that you got their attention. Once a child with special needs tries the activities you suggest to them, it means that the treatment is slowly but surely working.
- Tailor The Treatment For Each Client
You can obtain better results as well if you make every activity or discussion relatable for your clients. However, you need to ensure that the technique you will employ is custom-fit to each person’s needs. “That may mean revising a worksheet to meet their unique needs or explaining the same concept 10 different ways until it’s clear,” says Rose Reif, LPC, CRC, QDDP. “Whether it’s challenging their client on a cognitive distortion, or assigning homework, or engaging in a role-playing session, I think many counselors are afraid that they will somehow hurt or confuse their client if they try to introduce new skills or ideas.”
Remember that you will never get two people who have the same case, despite their condition being under one category. They are different when it comes to the severity of the disability, their age, the trigger factors, and many more. So it is only proper to plan how the treatment should go for a specific client after a couple of sessions, not right after the first consultation.
When you give counseling to someone with a developmental disability, give it with confidence. The guidance you can offer to clients is essential for improving their lives and their future. It is impossible not to know how to do that, primarily now that you have these basic tips.
After finding out that a loved one got into an accident that gave him or her a physical disability, you can’t help but feel pity immediately towards that person. “He or she was so close to fulfilling his or her dreams, and then this disaster happened,” you might say. Whenever you meet the disabled individual even years past the incident, therefore, you want to treat him or her with gentleness and not talk much about your successes to avoid making the person feel sorrier about his or her situation.
While you mean well, though, you fail to look at the possibility that maybe – just maybe – your loved one with a disability does not want the special attention. Perhaps the individual wishes that you look at him or her the same way you did before the accident to feel some normalcy. After all, it is already tough to deal with the fact that that individual can’t do many things now due to the physical condition. It can perform magic on his or her self-esteem if you give the following to the disabled person:
Someone whose world practically turned upside down because of one incident tends to experience an all-time low during this phase. Hence, to help the individual handle the matter better, you need to throw some words of encouragement here and there. Speak of the places you can visit together, for instance. Show him or her different hobbies to do. Also, always remind this person that the disability does not define his or her talents, so he or she should get moving.
“Encouragement can provide people with strength to look ahead, move forward, and reach for the next goal,” writes Julie J. Exline Ph.D.
“Respect honors the uniqueness of each person,” writes Arthur Dobrin D.S.W. You ought to understand that even somebody who cannot walk without crutches or function without a wheelchair wants to feel as if he or she is not entirely dependent on other people. That allows the fellow to have some control over his or her life. So, say, if he or she is trying to go to bed, it is not right to utter, “Wait for me. I will help you get on the matter.” Instead, it is more acceptable to let the individual know, “I am here if you need my help.” You get to prove that you respect his or her ideas by doing so.
After a couple of years of living with a disability, some folks gain enough strength and confidence to look for a job or at least deal with household chores. In case your initial reaction to this news is to tell the person to stay at home and chill, though, we are advising you against doing that now. Not only will it hurt the disabled fellow but it shows that you do not trust him or her, which can impede with the resurgence of his or her self-esteem.
“Providing support to someone, while usually well-intentioned, can have negative consequences: it can make the person getting the support feel like they can’t do things on their own, it can make them feel guilty (for being a burden), and it can hurt their self-esteem,” writes Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton Ph.D.
Whatever your loved one with a disability wants to do, as long as it does not involve self-harming, drinking to death, or doing drugs, you should say yes to it. He or she wants to get his or her life back together, and it will mean so much to have even a single person believing that he or she can do anything. If the individual wishes to re-enter the workforce, for instance, you can assist in finding companies he or she can apply to. If opening a business is what this fellow has in mind, you should strategize with him or her and offer your support physically and emotionally.
In The End
Of course, a disabled person needs your love, not your pity. Some may argue that it is difficult to separate the two, especially when you see someone who used to do everything on his or her own suddenly deal with an infirmity. Despite that, you have to realize that pity makes you want to treat the individual like fragile glass, while love lets you support, respect, and trust any decision that your beloved comes up with, no questions asked.