When we think differently, we'll act differently.
Attitude is everything!
We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.
John Henry Newman
Our perceptions and attitudes lay the foundation for our actions. From the big, overarching issues (like social policies and laws) to the daily actions of individuals (how you and I think, act, and talk), attitudes and perceptions are at the core of societal and individual actions.
As you read the articles in this section (and other sections, too), I hope your heart will be opened to the realization that disability is not the "problem." Instead, the real problems facing people with disabilities are attitudes and perceptions. Thus, the first step on the path to change requires a change in our perspectives.
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Explore the articles below . . .
And check out the Your Stories section for valuable real-life experiences!
Looking for a specific article?
Click here to go to the Explore/Home page;
midway down the page you'll find an alphabetical listing of all articles.
Enjoy these new ways of thinking!
There's one need—and it's the #1 Need—that's common to the vast majority of children and adults with disabilities.
21st Century Eugenics
The "Combating Autism Act," the recommendation to test all pregnant women for the presence of Down syndrome in their babies, and other events focus on "cure and prevention." What's the real message of these actions, and where are they taking us?
Assume the Best
For too long, many have assumed the worst about children and adults with disabilities. Let's change that tune and assume the best. Imagine the difference that can make! (Click here for the Spanish version.)
What benchmarks are you measured by? What benchmarks are truly important in the life of a person with a disability?
Benevolent Services, Dangerous Messages
A variety of benevolent services are provided for people with disabilities. But these same services can also carry dangerous messages for children and adults and their families.
Your articles open the eyes of the staff that I work with. Keep up the passion you have for this. Systems change happens a little at a time, but we will spread the word. Many people have responded to your insights, telling me they had never before viewed people with disabilities in the light you shine upon the issues.
Jim, person with a disability
and professional in the field
Beyond Tunnel Vision
When we see a person primarily through the lens of the disability, we may be unable to see anything beyond the diagnosis. Let's go beyond tunnel vision so we can see a person's strengths, abilities, talents, etc., as well as options, possibilities, and strategies to ensure a person can live the life of his or her dreams!
Call to Action
A young man with a disabilities issues the "call" to children and adults with disabilities:"Get out there and take your rightful place in society!"
Out with "can't-thinking"! Let's look at the strengths and abilities of children and adults with disabilities and create a can-list!
Consequences of Segregation
Segregating children and/or adults with disabilities in "special" places doesn't only have negative consequences on those who are segregated, it also exerts a negative influence on society-at-large.
Is it possible you might have "mathematics disorder" or even the dreaded "noncompliance with treatment disorder"? We're treading treacherous waters when we embrace all the nonsense in the DSM-IV.
Dental Patient by Roy Gerstenberger
In this eye-opening article, a human services agency director ponders the relationship between people with disabilities and the service system, and asks some important questions for us to consider.
The idea of "services" warms the cockles of many hearts: "recipients" may be grateful for the help and "providers" may be proud of their efforts. This is a view from afar; up close, things may look differently.
Disability Double Standard
It seems we have one set of rules for people without disabilities, and another set for people with disabilities. Let's eliminate this double standard and create positive change in the process!
Is one disability "better" or "worse" than another? What happens when we compare diagnoses and rank people in a hierarchy? It's an all-too-common practice that we can happily end!
Long ago, President Eisenhower warned about the "military-industrial complex." Should we also be concerned about the "disability-industrial complex" that impacts so many lives?
Disability Issue or Human Being Issue?
Too often, we attribute a person's behaviors or characteristics as being part of the person's disability diagnosis. In reality, these might not be "disability issues" at all, but "human being" issues!
Do Disability Organizations Presume Competence?
Many organizations claim to represent the interests of children and adults with disabilities. But they may also operate in ways that perpetuate the presumed incompetent paradigm of people with disabilities. It's time for self-examination!
Eliminating the Presumed Incompetence Paradigm
Parents and/or people with disabilities have to routinely defend against the Presumed Incompetent mentality. But in so doing, they may inadvertently reinforce the mentality they're arguing against! The strategies in this article can help eliminate this harmful practice.
Employment: Who's Talking the Talk, But Not Walking the Walk?
From coast to coast, many human service agencies exist to help people with disabilities, and they share a common mantra: "People with disabilities should work, live, and play in the community." They talk the talk, but do they walk the walk?
Entitlements are good, yes? Maybe, maybe not. They can be helpful, but they can also be harmful if they lead to dependency, helplessness, and other unintended negative consequences. The Entitlement Mentality can often rob us of our common sense.
Eyes Wide Open or Shut?
What can happen when we think we're seeing what's in front of us, but we're actually seeing only a partial image or seeing what's not really there?
FIRE! And Lessons Learned
Our family learned valuable lessons from a forest fire...lessons about peaceful coexistence with nature and more. What if we applied those lessons to disability issues?
First, Do No Harm
"First, do no harm," is a sentiment we're familiar with. On a regular basis, we work diligently to help children and/or adults with disabilities. But in the process, is it possible we could also be causing harm?
From Inconvenient to Ordinary
Change is constant, and the "new" may initially seem inconvenient, but it soon becomes ordinary. The same can be true about the inclusion of people with disabilities in schools, jobs, and ordinary activities!
From Pity to Equality: What's Your Position?
Like the patchwork of a quilt, we all fit together and touch one another. And our positions—our attitudes and actions—impact the children and adults with disabilities in our lives. Have you thought about your position lately?
Gift of Fellowship
Each film in The Lord of the Rings trilogy has much to offer in how we think and feel about people who have disabilities and/or differences...and we can learn lots about the gift of fellowship!
"Girls Don't Play Drums"
How many of our decisions—like the one made by an elementary band teacher—are based on facts or truth? How many are personal (and perhaps antiquated) perceptions and what impact do they have?
Good day! I gave a staff training yesterday on "behavior is communication, and used your "What's a 'Behavior'?" article. I personally enjoyed the article and felt I had to share it with my staff. We took turns reading a paragraph and it was a great opening for the training. I also used it to close the training. As a result of your article, I've instructed staff to no longer say, "He had a behavior," but to say instead, "He was trying to communicate something." Your article was very concrete, informative, and brief (which is great for my staff). Everyone was able to understand it and relate to it. Thank you, and keep your beautiful words of wisdom coming!
Lauren Donato, Applied Behavioral Science Specialist,Young Adult Institute,
Natl. Institute for People with Disabilities
Brooklyn Regional Psychologist
Aren't we always hunting for new great ideas? Maybe they're right in front of our eyes if we look in the right places...
Hearts and Minds
Great efforts are expended to help or treat the bodies and brains of children and adults with disabilities. But maybe our efforts would yield more positive outcomes if we focused on their hearts and minds!
Inclusion: The Natural State
Inclusion is not a right that must be earned; it is the natural state, for every person is born included! So why are so many people with disabilities still segregated? Imagine the possibilities when a belief in inclusion is our highest operating principle.
It's time to move beyond the "get ready" mentality about "independence." No one is independent; we're all interdependent.
Many individuals with disabilities develop wonderful compensatory abilities, which may be invisible to (and ignored by) others. What might happen when we begin to see these abilities?
It's About Trust
Every day, the lives of children and adults with disabilities are entrusted to service providers, educators, and others. Do these "trustees" understand the value of this trust?
Lessons of Segregation
Children and adults with disabilities are routinely placed in segregated settings, ostensibly "for their own good." But what lessons are learned in these environments, and can the lessons ever be unlearned?
Let's Get Curious!
What if we were more curious about children and adults with disabilities? Could we learn more, become wiser, and be more effective in helping them to live the lives of their dreams?
Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal
"Not ready" is a familiar refrain used about children and adults with disabilities. But is it accurate? Is it fair? Is it the standard we apply to people without disabilities? People with disabilities are "ready"—right now!
Magic (and Lessons) of Movies
Movies aren't just magical entertainment. They can also provide valuable lessons that can have a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities and their families.
We seem to recognize the power of peer group influence in most instances, but we sometimes fail to recognize this power in the lives of people with disabilities. The results of this failure are mixed messages and less-than-desirable outcomes, so it's time to make some positive changes!
Moral Imperative of Inclusion
The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision deemed separate educational facilities to be illegal and "inherently unequal." Yet many people with disabilities are still in separate facilities. Inclusion isn't just a legal issue, but a moral and ethical one, as well.
New Way of Thinking
A brief review of conventional wisdom—past and present—can help us recognize the need for, and the importance of, embracing a new way of thinking about disability!
No, Not "Special" - They Are Ordinary Needs
To be successful at home, school, or work, everyone needs assistive technology, accommodations, and supports. Isn't it time to recognize the "ordinary" needs of people who happen to have disabilities?
People as Precious Commodities
They're not listed on the stock exchange, but children and adults with disabilities constitute a precious commodity: they are, unfortunately, the raw material of a gargantuan human services industry.
Personal Responsibility vs. The Nanny State
Most of us want to be responsible for our own lives. Why don't we expect the same from children and adults with disabilities? What will it take to ensure people with disabilities experience the joy and pride of personal responsibility?
Philosophy for Change
Epictetus, a philosopher in ancient Roman times, had profound wisdom about "conventional thinking," "tests of rationality," "humaneness, justice, possibility" and much more. What if we apply the wisdom of Epictetus to disability issues?
Power of Hope
Family members and/or individuals with disabilities are often on the receiving end of doom-and-gloom from professionals in the field—robbing them of hope. Let's recognize the power of hope; not only can it change the lives of people with disabilities and families, but also the lives of professionals!
Power of Imagination
A "failure of imagination" has been cited as a factor in several national catastrophes. What if we had an "abundance of imagination," and what if we applied these two concepts to disability issues? (Click here for the Spanish version.)
Presume Competence: Challenging Conventional Wisdom
In our judicial system, a person is presumed innocent. Similarly, in every day life, people are presumed competent. But millions of children and adults are routinely presumed to be incompetent, on the basis of disability! It's time to end this prejudicial practice, once and for all.
Quality of Life
Many children and adults spend years receiving therapies and interventions in order to achieve "quality of life." But is there a definition of quality of life we can all agree on? And can one person measure the quality of life of another? Let's think about this...
What is a disability? Is it really the defining characteristic about a person or a collection of social constructs we've created? Oh, how things can change when we see things differently!
Reflections: I Wonder...
A thoughtful list of musings...Time spent thinking and wondering might help us move in a new and better direction.
Remember the Bicycle!
When your parents bought your first bike, did you know how to ride it? Probably not, but your parents presumed competence and believed you could learn. Isn't it time to do the same for people with disabilities? (Click here for the Spanish version.)
Revolutionary Common Sense and New Ways of Thinking
This two page handout features a variety of thought-provoking ideas that can frame new conversations and lead to positive changes in the lives of children and adults with disabilities!
"Right" to a Normal Life
To many, the most important "right" is "getting services." But what about the "right" to a normal life, instead of a "special" life? You'll find some interesting questions and answers in this article! (Click here for the Spanish version.)
Self-Determination for All!
What is self-determination and who needs it? What's the difference between "true" self-determination and self-determination "projects"? What needs to happen to ensure children and adults have the opportunities to lead self-determined lives?
Separate and Unequal
It seems we should be moving toward greater inclusion. But segregated activities are taking us backwards—and like segregated education in an earlier time, these activities are separate and unequal.
Spiderman, Star Wars, and Disability
Our family loves movies: we saw Spiderman and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones on the first day of release. When we pause and reflect, many movies offer important lessons about disability issues.
Thoughtful Analogy: Free the Giraffes!
Donna, an outstanding artist, a wise woman, and a person with autism, shares extraordinary wisdom in her story about freeing the giraffes.
Value of Being a Skeptic
What can happen when we wonder and ask questions about diagnoses, prognoses, treatments, and more? What great things can happen when we don't believe everything we're told?
What's a "Behavior"?
"He had a ‘behavior'," is heard far too often today. What are we really saying, and what's the person with a disability trying to tell us with his behavior?
When is a Disability Not a Disability?
What is a disability? Is there a universally-accepted definition? And what difference does it make? It makes all the difference in the world to the people who have received a disability diagnosis!
Which Should Be Defended: Inclusion or Segregation?
Segregated programs for people with disabilities seem to be the dominant practice. Thus, proponents of inclusion are often considered "radical," and feel they must defend their position. But since all people are born included, which practice should be defended?
Strengths, abilities, interests, hopes, dreams, and needs. These characteristics—and many more—make up the whole person for each of us. But when a person has a disability, do we see the whole person, or only a small part?
Why Do We Have Parallel Worlds?
Compare the lives of people with and without disabilities, and it's easy to see that Disability World and the Real World exist as parallel worlds. Let's make the Real World the norm for everyone!
Most people without disabilities work diligently to ensure they're living a wonderful life. What will it take to make that happen in the lives of people with disabilities?
Discover other valuable articles
and helpful information on these pages:
People First Language
Language and Communication
Strategies for All
©2009-13 Kathie Snow, www.disabilityisnatural.com