accomodations

Recognizing uniqueness is not a substitute for thinking about disability

Teachers who are really good at teaching typically developing kids sometimes have trouble understanding the significance of disability. I’ve heard a lot of things like “all kids are unique” and “I always individualize my approach for every kid” and “I don’t see the need to label any kids as disabled, it’s just a matter of finding what works for them”.

This sounds positive, but it can be a disaster for kids with disabilities.

We talk a lot about uniqueness, but a lot of effective teaching depends on understanding ways in which kids are similar to each other. Developmentally appropriate practice means understanding how kids the same age are similar to each other — then being flexible in ways that recognize kids’ unique humanity. We develop a sense of what the range of difference is for kids of a particular age.

Kids with disabilities are more different than that, and we need to take those differences seriously. Disability matters, and practices based on typical developmental milestones don’t account for it.

For instance:

Developmental milestones tell us:

  • Two year olds don’t have the motor skills to support handwriting.
  • Early education helps two year olds develop the motor skills that will eventually support handwriting.
  • Ten year olds do have the motor skills to support handwriting.
  • If they’ve had appropriate education, ten year olds should be able to write.

Developmental milestones don’t tell us:

  • How to teach ten year olds who don’t have the fine motor skills to support handwriting.
  • What early literacy and pre-writing instruction looks like for young children who are unlikely to develop the motor skills needed to support handwriting

It’s also important to understand the difference between unusual and unique. Disability means having unusual differences. But not every difference is unique. Some differences are shared by other people with disabilities. Those shared differences are important.

We need to understand the disability-related similarities. Part of that is having the right words to describe them. Calling disabilities by their right names isn’t about labeling, it’s about breaking isolation and making important things speakable.

For instance:

Braille:

  • Braille exists because blind people need it to exist
  • The differences between sighted people and blind people are a reason that braille needs to exist.
  • (And a reason that Braille is better than raised print).
  • The similarities between many blind people are a reason that braille *can* exist as a standard way of accessing literacy. 
  • If each blind person was completely unique, there would be no way to create a reading and writing system that would work for large numbers of blind people.

Some other examples:

  • Wheelchairs.
  • Ramps.
  • Large print.
  • Cars with hand controls and/or wheelchair lifts.
  • Text-to-speech communication devices.
  • VoiceOver and other screen reading software.
  • Signed languages.
  • Medications that manage symptoms.
  • Supportive seating.
  • The ADA, Section 504, IDEA and other disability rights laws.

People with disabilities are unique, and not interchangeable with each other. Similarly, kids the same age are unique, and not interchangeable with each other. Both the similarities and differences are important.

Tl;dr Sometimes progressive educators are uncomfortable with the concept of disability, and want to instead just see every kid’s uniqueness. That doesn’t work, because disability means having unusual differences — and because the differences aren’t unique; they’re shared with many other disabled people. Recognizing uniqueness isn’t enough — we also need to understand and accommodate disability.

Ask disabled friends how to handle disability related things

Anonymous said to :

I have a friend who has a speech impediment. When we meet new people they often have a hard time understanding her. I can understand her about as well as I understand most people, but I’m not really sure what I can do to help. I don’t want to talk over her or act like I’m a translator.

realsocialskills said:

It depends on what your friend wants you to do. Different people with speech impediments have different preferences.

I don’t know what your friend wants in those situations, but they probably do.

You can say something like: “I’ve noticed that sometimes when we’re interacting with new people they often have trouble understanding you, and I feel like I end up excluding you from the conversation. Are there are things you would like me to do in those situations?”

It’s likely that they know, and that you will be able to do what they suggest. Some possibilities:

  • You interrupting people who talk over her
  • (Eg: “Susan was saying something.” or “Susan, what were you saying?”)
  • Interpreting for her sometimes (*if* this is what she wants; some people do)
  • (Eg: “Susan said that the mushroom sauce is better at Delicious Restaurant”)
  • Interpreting more subtly, by asking her questions
  • (Eg: “Susan, did you say that we should go to Delicious Restaurant?”)
  • Or any number of other things

tl;dr Your disabled friends are probably a better judge of what would help them than you are. If in doubt, ask.

A thought on making difference ok

alv529:

mmmyoursquid:

realsocialskills:

One issue with accommodations and modifications in school, is that it can often be hard to avoid stigma. Kids don’t usually like being singled out or doing things conspicuously differently. Also, nondisabled kids often resent it when disabled kids are allowed to do things that they are not allowed to do.

Further, one frequent objection to accommodations is “but if I let one kid do this, then all the other kids will want to.”

Sometimes that’s true — and, often, the best solution to that problem is to just let all the kids do whatever the thing is. Sometimes there’s no good reason to restrict access to something. Sometimes changing the rule works better than making exceptions to it.

One way that something works to correct this problem is to make some of their accommodations available to other kids who would like to try them. The kid who has a documented need for accommodations probably isn’t the only one who would benefit from them.

And even aside from that, it’s good for kids to explore the world and experiment with different ways of doing things. This is a good way to learn that difference is normal, and that doing things differently is a basic fact of life.

For instance, if one kid needs to use manipulatives for math, maybe try making manipulatives available to all the kids.

If one kid needs a large print worksheet, maybe make a few large print copies and let kids try doing it that way.

If one kid needs to chew stuff, maybe make things available for other kids to chew.

If one kid needs to use fidget toys, maybe make them available to all the kids who would like to try it.

If one kid needs to type, and you have the resources to make that available to other kids too, maybe let them try doing assignments that way. And let the kids that works better for continue to do it.

And, beyond that, it helps to get in the habit of providing different ways to do things even when there isn’t a kid who needs them as a specific accommodation.

Not in the sense of “take a walk in the disabled kid’s shoes”, this is not a disability simulation. The point shouldn’t be empathy building, and it should not be presented as being about the disabled kid. The message is “there are a lot of legitimate ways to do things, and it’s ok to experiment and figure out what works for you, even if most people don’t do it the same way as you”.

You can’t always do this, and you can’t always do this for everything. When you can, it helps, a lot.

mmmyoursquid said:

I think this is implied in the post, but just to make it explicit: disabled kids without diagnoses or paperwork are still disabled. You can’t accommodate them without making accommodations available to kids without paperwork.

The other stuff is right and important too, I just thought that could use highlighting.

alv529 said:

Yes to all of this. The main reason other students in my class were upset with me for being ahead of them and two of my friends for getting extra help due to dyslexia and disability? That we got to do something they didn’t get to try. Not that I was “too clever” or “thought I was better than them”, or that my friends were “bad readers”, “stupid” or “not learning fast enough”.

If the other 10-14 kids in my tiny primary school class had been allowed to try my middle school level school books, or had been allowed to try my friends’s dyslexia friendly font books, I’m absolutely certain they wouldn’t have kicked up a fuss like they did. Because they would have realised that my books were too advanced for them, and my friends’s books were basically the same as theirs, but with a different font and sometimes with shorter paragraphs.

lanthir:

realsocialskills:

How do you ask for accomendations when you don’t have a go-to reason to explain why you need it? I don’t know if I’m disabled (I find info about disablities completely inaccessible to me, though i’ve wondered from seeing people talk about things i’ve also experienced) but I do know I can’t learn in certain ways, or process information that’s presented in certain ways, and that I’m prone to sensory overload. people act like i’m being overdemanding when I bring it up. am i? if not, what do I do?
realsocialskills said:
 
I’ve been there, a lot. I was only diagnosed after college, even though I’ve always been disabled. I was just as impaired before diagnosis; being without a label didn’t magically create abilities. So I’ve spent a lot of time negotiating accommodations informally. 
 
I’ve found that what works best is to give a very simple version of the problem, and to ask for something specific. This can make accommodating you seem like a straightforward thing to do.
For instance: “This is hard for me to read. Is there an electronic copy?” works much better than ”I’m autistic and I have visual tracking issues and executive dysfunction and I need a different format.”
 
Or: “Noisy College Hall is big and crowded. I never understand anything there. Can we have class in the usual room instead of moving?”
  
Or: “I don’t understand the assignment when it’s said verbally. Can you email me the details?”
 
tl;dr You don’t have to go into great diagnostic detail when you’re negotiating with a teacher directly. You can start by describing the problem and a solution you think would work. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the most effective approach I know of for this situation.
 
Does anyone else want to weigh in? What’s worked for you when you’ve needed to ask a teacher for accommodations?

lanthir said:

It can vary a lot from one teacher to another.  I’ve had some professors be totally willing to accommodate me, provided with only the slightest information.  Ex: I told a professor that I find clamor overwhelming and upsetting, and I was given permission for my group to work in the hallway whenever we did small group work, to minimize noise.  This permission extended for two years, without me having to bring it up more than once.  

Or, I mentioned once to my adviser (with whom I had multiple classes most semesters for five years) that I have anxiety problems, and that some subject matter is triggering for me (I did not mention what, or why).  Hence forth, he was completely okay with me discretely stepping out into the hall to calm down whenever I needed to.

Then again, I had a professor adamantly refuse to give me any accommodation or assistance when I explained to her that being verbally told complex assignments in a loud and chaotic environment didn’t work for me at all.  She insisted that there was no possible way that could ever be difficult for anyone, and that there was no way she could write down, type up, or even slowly repeat the assignments.  She refused to answer my questions, and refused to allow me to wear headphones while working.  (It was a studio art class, at a school where having headphones on to work in the studio is common.)  I was penalized for having multiple panic attacks every single class.  

I think, if a professor is going to be helpful at all, the best way to go about asking is to stay after class or visit their office during their office hours, and explain as briefly but specifically as possible what accommodations you are requesting.  Professors who are kind and decent people will probably be willing to help.  But not everyone can be convinced, no matter what you tell them, or how you frame the request.

igotpillstheyremultiplying:

mare-of-night:

realsocialskills:

How do you ask for accomendations when you don’t have a go-to reason to explain why you need it? I don’t know if I’m disabled (I find info about disablities completely inaccessible to me, though…

igotpillstheyremultiplying said:

I was told by the Disabled Student Services of my school that no acccomodations would be given without a formal diagnosis *and* a letter from my doctor explaining exactly what accommodations I needed and why.

Which is why I am no longer in school, ha!

I hope OP’s school is better at actually providing services, because at my school all they did was gatekeep.

The woman I spoke to literally said to my face that she didn’t really believe that a lot of the disabled students were as disabled as they said they were.. These were people with doctor’s notes and everything..

Ugh.

realsocialskills said:

I wish that was surprising. I’m sorry that people did that to you.

I’ve found that disability services is not always representative of the teachers. Sometimes individual teachers care about accommodations and are reasonable even when the disability office functions as the office of access prevention.

mare-of-night:

realsocialskills:

How do you ask for accomendations when you don’t have a go-to reason to explain why you need it? I don’t know if I’m disabled (I find info about disablities completely inaccessible to me, though i’ve wondered from seeing people talk about things i’ve also experienced) but I do know I can’t learn in certain ways, or process information that’s presented in certain ways, and that I’m prone to sensory overload. people act like i’m being overdemanding when I bring it up. am i? if not, what do I do?
realsocialskills said:
 
I’ve been there, a lot. I was only diagnosed after college, even though I’ve always been disabled. I was just as impaired before diagnosis; being without a label didn’t magically create abilities. So I’ve spent a lot of time negotiating accommodations informally. 
 
I’ve found that what works best is to give a very simple version of the problem, and to ask for something specific. This can make accommodating you seem like a straightforward thing to do.
For instance: “This is hard for me to read. Is there an electronic copy?” works much better than ”I’m autistic and I have visual tracking issues and executive dysfunction and I need a different format.”
 
Or: “Noisy College Hall is big and crowded. I never understand anything there. Can we have class in the usual room instead of moving?”
  
Or: “I don’t understand the assignment when it’s said verbally. Can you email me the details?”
 
tl;dr You don’t have to go into great diagnostic detail when you’re negotiating with a teacher directly. You can start by describing the problem and a solution you think would work. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the most effective approach I know of for this situation.
 
Does anyone else want to weigh in? What’s worked for you when you’ve needed to ask a teacher for accommodations?

mare-of-night said:

If you can afford it or have insurance cover it, getting a diagnosis, or just getting tested in some way, can be an option. I had to get tested to get an accommodation letter from the disability office once (it was a small thing, but the professor was inflexible on that specific thing because of reasons). The test itself was an afternoon of doing timed tests and puzzles, and a bit of conversation about whether I’d had difficulty in school as a child and such. I’m not actually sure if I was diagnosed with anything (so probably I wasn’t), but I got a doctor letter that basically amounted to “this person’s brain is a little different in this specific way and she has trouble with these sorts of things, so you should let her review the power point slides after class”.

(read more break because random personal stuff)

Read More

realsocialskills said:

Getting a diagnosis can definitely be helpful for some people (I’m one of them). It’s not a complete solution to the problem though, and it’s not a good option for everyone. There can also be a long waiting list, and people waiting still need options. 

How do you ask for accomendations when you don’t have a go-to reason to explain why you need it? I don’t know if I’m disabled (I find info about disablities completely inaccessible to me, though i’ve wondered from seeing people talk about things i’ve also experienced) but I do know I can’t learn in certain ways, or process information that’s presented in certain ways, and that I’m prone to sensory overload. people act like i’m being overdemanding when I bring it up. am i? if not, what do I do?
realsocialskills said:
 
I’ve been there, a lot. I was only diagnosed after college, even though I’ve always been disabled. I was just as impaired before diagnosis; being without a label didn’t magically create abilities. So I’ve spent a lot of time negotiating accommodations informally. 
 
I’ve found that what works best is to give a very simple version of the problem, and to ask for something specific. This can make accommodating you seem like a straightforward thing to do.
For instance: “This is hard for me to read. Is there an electronic copy?” works much better than "I’m autistic and I have visual tracking issues and executive dysfunction and I need a different format.“
 
Or: "Noisy College Hall is big and crowded. I never understand anything there. Can we have class in the usual room instead of moving?”
  
Or: “I don’t understand the assignment when it’s said verbally. Can you email me the details?”
 
tl;dr You don’t have to go into great diagnostic detail when you’re negotiating with a teacher directly. You can start by describing the problem and a solution you think would work. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the most effective approach I know of for this situation.
 
Does anyone else want to weigh in? What’s worked for you when you’ve needed to ask a teacher for accommodations?

I get where you’re coming from saying all autistic people are disabled, but I’m autistic and don’t consider myself disabled, because I move through the world with no external accommodations. I feel uncomfortable claiming the word disabled and I feel more uncomfortable when people apply it to me without my consent.
realsocialskills said:
Here’s what I mean by saying all autistic people are disabled:
Autistic people, *all* autistic people, have things that they can’t do that almost all neurotypical people can do.
That’s a significant fact. And it doesn’t go away because you’ve arranged your life in a way that works for you. And losing site of that can cause a lot of problems.
To use a personal example:
I have a terrible sense of direction. I absolutely need my iPhone to be able to go anywhere new by myself without allowing an extra hour to get lost. That’s true no matter how simple the route is.
I have, at many points, forgotten that I am disabled in this particular way. In my day-to-day life, I normally stay within a small range of a few very familiar city blocks. So I don’t experience my disability, I don’t notice I am disabled. I even, sometimes, forget that I am impaired in that way. I used to get myself into a lot of trouble assuming that I’d gotten over it.
Similar things happen with executive functioning. I need a lot of cognitive cues to be in place to be able to do things. If they’re there, then I can forget that I have problems doing stuff. Which can cause serious problems if what I need to do shifts and my existing cues don’t work anymore. 
Understanding that I haven’t gotten over disability and I’m not going to get over it helps me to function better. Because whether I notice my disability or not, it’s always there. When I remember and acknowledge that I am disabled it, I can plan to accommodate my disability.
I think this is true of all autistic people, whether or not they identify as disabled.

Don't assume you know the reasons someone needs accomodations

So, here’s a thing that happens:

  • Person with a disability: I need accommodation x.
  • Person with power: Oh, you have condition y! No problem!
  • Person with a disability actually has condition z, which needs some of the same accommodations as y, but also different ones.
  • But they’re afraid to correct the person with power, lest they think that the actual reason isn’t a good one, and stop being willing to do the necessary accommodation.
  • And they’re also afraid to ask for some of the other accommodations they need for the condition they actually have, because then they’d have to change the conversation.

For instance:

  • Student with an audio processing disorder: I need to sit in the front in order to understand what’s going on in class.
  • Teacher: Oh, because you can’t see the board otherwise! Sure, I’ll make a note of it on the seating chart and be sure not to assign you anywhere you can’t see the board.
  • The student is afraid to correct the teacher, because they might not think audio processing problems are a real thing. Or the teacher might feel like the student lied to them, even though the student never said anything about vision.
  • On a field trip, the teacher doesn’t realize that the student needs to be near the tour guide. The exhibits are large, and students gather around them and can see them equally well from any point, so the teacher doesn’t realize there is a problem.
  • And the student is afraid to say that there is a problem, because the teacher hasn’t shown that it is safe to do so, and has given some indication that it isn’t.

So, do not be that guy. Don’t tell people what their disability is, or what their needs are. Doing so makes it harder for people to tell you what accommodations they actually need in order to be able to participate.

Instead, ask. Don’t ask invasive personal questions, just ask what people need. 

More on restricted diets

More on restricted diets

Do not take food issues personally.

If someone can’t eat something, it’s not personal:

  • It isn’t a rejection of your hospitality
  • It isn’t an insult to your cooking skills
  • It isn’t a comment on your health, your lifestyle, or your diet

It’s also not any of your business:

  • Don’t expect an intimate conversation about the reasons behind the food restriction
  • Don’t make a big deal about it
  • Do not comment about weight loss
  • Do not offer unsolicited medical advice
  • Do not offer unsolicited health advice
  • Or unsolicited religious commentary
  • Or your views on vegetarianism

And especially, don’t do dangerous things:

  • Don’t try to trick people into eating things
  • Even if you think their food issue is a ridiculous phobia and that tricking them would cure it
  • Seriously, seriously, don’t do that
  • It won’t help, and this kind of thing can and does kill people
  • And, in any case, irrational people also have the right to say no

You do not need to agree that the person is correct about what to eat in order to interact with them respectfully. You just have to arrange for it to be possible for them to be in spaces you’re in, and for it to be predictable whether there will be anything for them to eat there.