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The Lost Art of Manners

What are manners? Years ago, I read a meaningful definition (and, unfortunately, cannot remember the source) which described manners as “making another person comfortable.” Most of us probably try hard to have good manners, but it seems many of us lose the art of manners when it comes to people with disabilities.

While I was presenting the “History of Disabilities” at Idaho Partners in Policymaking, Howard (who is probably fifty- or sixty-something) raised his hand and said he wanted to add something about how individuals had been treated and talked about in the past, based on their disability diagnoses.

“I have two brothers,” Howard began. “All the time I was growing up, when my father introduced us, he said my brothers’ names and then he always said, ‘And this is our retarded son, Howard.’ Why did he do that, Kathie? It always made me feel so bad.” Then Howard broke into shoulder-heaving sobs, as the years and years of pain poured out. Several of us comforted him as best we could. Resuming my presentation, I noted that years ago, many people probably believed that it was appropriate to share this information with anyone (including strangers) and perhaps they also thought people with disabilities did not have the cognitive abilities to understand what was being said, so they didn’t think their words would hurt.

Howard’s pain was clear evidence that words—especially the words used by parents and others who profess to care about you—hurt very deeply and the pain is long-lasting. In Howard’s case . . . Click here to continue.

Many people with disabilities are said to have "challenging behaviors." Perhaps we would do well to look at our own behavior before judging others.

Kathie Snow