What are ways other people can show respect
for my child and family?
Your child may need to see many different health care providers or specialists.
It is important for these providers to treat you and your child with respect. They should treat your child in a way that fits with the following rules of etiquette (proper behavior). Ask other people in your child's life to follow these rules, too:
- Eye contact: People talking to you and your child should make eye contact (looking your child in the eyes). He or she should speak directly to your child, not just to you or another family member. Ignoring your child can make your child feel bad, scared or angry.
- Speak to the person, not the interpreter: If an interpreter is needed to translate from another language (or to use sign language), the doctor or professional should look at your child and you, not the translator.
- Include the child: Ask your child's permission when talking about him or her. If the professional is talking to you or another family member in front of your child, he or she should not ignore your child. This is especially important with children with severe disabilities, and older children.
- Don't treat a child with a disability differently than anyone else: The health care provider should not ask questions that he or she wouldn't ask about a child without a disability unless it is directly related to your child's problem.
- Considerations for speaking with someone with a hearing difficulty: When speaking to your child with a hearing impairment, the person should get attention first with a tap on the arm or a wave. If your child can read lips, make sure the person knows that. That person should keep hands away from his or her mouth while speaking.
- Considerations for speaking with someone with a speech difficulty: When speaking with your child with a speech difficulty, the person should talk normally -- not interrupting or pretending to understand. You can help them understand, but the focus should be on communicating with the child. That person should use a normal voice when talking with your child unless they have a hearing problem, too. Even if your child uses a speaking device or other assistive device to communicate or has difficulty speaking, it should be assumed your child has normal hearing. That person needs to be considerate of the extra time it might take for the child to do or say things.
- Considerations for speaking with someone with a visual difficulty: A person should speak to your child who is blind or visually impaired before touching the child. When someone offers to help, let the child take his or her arm. That way the child is guided, not pushed around. Remember that service animals such as dogs leading the blind are working when with their owners; hence, people should ask your child's permission before touching the animal.
- Considerations for personal space and your child's special equipment: No one should lean on or touch your child's wheelchair, cane, walker or any equipment your child uses to move. That is in your child's personal space. It can be intimidating and insulting to your child to have a stranger lean on a device or get close without permission.
- Use person-first language. People helping you and your child should use language that is respectful and puts your child first. For more information on using person-first language, click here.
(Adapted from Simply Ask! A Guide to Disability Etiquette, Commonwealth Currents, September 1997)
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