Some advice on dealing with people with differences: Don’t automatically assume they need your help
RECENTLY I WAS at lunch with some of our students from the Ivy Street School, a therapeutic day and residential school in Brookline for adolescents and young adults who are neurodivergent – which means they’re on the autism spectrum, have a neurological disability, and/or are managing other mental health or behavioral health diagnosis. Together, we waited in line as customers were handed their food at the counter and given space to bag their burritos and grab plasticware to go. However, when the store’s manager finished checking out one of our students, he automatically bagged the food, handing it to her with a smile.
While the store manager clearly meant to be helpful, someone with a disability might tell you that moments like these can do more harm than good. Infantilizing those with disabilities – giving unwarranted special treatment – can make them feel different and embarrassed. Yes, people with disabilities do have differences. However, we as bystanders don’t know what those are – which impacts our ability to help them in a meaningful way. Had the store manager simply asked my student if she needed help bagging her lunch, she would have said no. For the rest of the article click here