My first professional job included the oversight of medical records. I was horrified. The old practices of diagnosing intellectual disability used terms like imbecile and feeble minded. I couldn’t let the documents leave my hands so I shamelessly painted over the words(in those days the paint was called white out) and replaced them with the terms of the day…’moderate’, ‘mild’ etc…
The diagnosis of a disability is needed to get you access to service; and on a very practical level, I get that. However, words have a profound effect on people and we need to see the power of them in our everyday lives. They create expectations and expectations that can lead to unkind limitations.
I had a class once which set up this exercise. Have 6 people sit in a circle. Give each one a head band. Without the individual seeing the note, put a sticker on each head band with a characteristic…like “class clown”, “hasn’t said a smart thing in years”, “brilliant”, “difficult”. Then introduce a discussion topic and watch what happens. Others in the group immediately start acting toward the person in accordance with the sticker. The individuals in the group become confused….what is causing the behavior of the others? Some people shut down and stop talking.
When we think about our co workers and the people we support, we need to be on the look out for expectations. Have we inadvertently put limits on someone? Have we missed an opportunity to include someone in a discussion, in a decision that will affect them?
If we treated everyone as if the person was the most gifted person, we would look for the gifts. If we treated everyone as if we really needed the person, we would look to see what they could do…if we treated everyone like we can’t live without them, we would look to see just what the bring to our lives. So let’s be on the look out. We need to think…Inclusion rules!