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Disability

The Coffee Klatch: A Voice for Parents of Special Needs Children

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By Rachel L. West, MSW, LMSW
Director of Community Development

On June 24th Marianne Russo, President at The Coffee Klatch Special Needs Radio, will be our guest for Social Work Chats by Social Work Helper. The Coffee Klatch is an excellent resource for parents and families of children with special needs.  Marianne generously took some time  out of her busy schedule to answer a few of our questions. 

SWH: How did The Coffee Klatch come about and what is the mission?

Marianne Russo: The Coffee Klatch started on a whim. I often speak and write about the isolation, stigma and confusion of

Marianne Russo

Marianne Russo

parents raising a special needs child. Many of those 
parents are on twitter to share information, seek support or find a friendly ear. Twitter is where it all began. It is where I met my incredible team of hosts and hundreds of thousands of special needs parents. It is where I first created a morning chat for parents both newly diagnosed and those who have navigated the muddy waters to meet and share. It became very apparent to me, very quickly, that many of these parents were getting misinformation about their child’s diagnosis or were not aware of accommodations and the importance of early interventions.  For many, comorbidity of related disorders and the presentations in the vast difference in these disorders was impeding progress. They were struggling, overwhelmed, isolated and feeling defeated. What these parents needed was evidence based, comprehensive, cutting edge information, they needed the best of the best, the needed The Coffee Klatch Talk Radio.

Our guests are the most respected and renowned experts in the world. Together with my incredible team of hosts, I work to bring parents what they need to find accurate diagnosis and effective treatements.

We take pride in providing interviews with the most respected and renowned experts on all aspects and types of neurobiological disorders, autism and child adolescent mental illnesses.  We feature experts and celebrity advocates on all children’s disabilities both physical and emotional and spotlight International children’s foundations to share their incredible dedication and bring parents support.   Our goal is to provide you, the parent, the educator, with crucial information to allow you to make the most informed educated decisions for a child.

My goal on The Coffee Klatch is not only to guide those dealing with children with mental illness, disabilities or autism, but to share an important message of fostering and embracing differences. Put aside labels and see the incredible kid behind the diagnosis. Find and marvel the wonder of “different” and always remember that these kids are not just special in their needs but in their brilliance as well.

I want to give parents what I so dearly needed and did not have when I started on my journey, the empowerment of confidence and hope.  It is my intent to bring my listeners the tools and information to not only accept and understand your child’s diagnosis, but to educate parents on special education law, digging out of the trenches and the true meaning of advocacy.

SWH: How many people are involved in running the Coffee Klatch and who are they (parents, specialist, volunteers, etc)?

MR: I personally do all the management, marketing and production of the network on a full time basis.  I also host two shows on the network, our main show The Coffee Klatch and my new show Inspire.  Mae Wilkinson is our treasurer and my trusted advisor on autism related interviews and corporate strategies.

The Coffee Klatch is where I seek to give parents what they so desperately need, empowerment. Through my interviews I brings parents cutting edge researchers, world renowned psychiatrists, specialized psychologists, internationally respected children’s foundations, special education law experts, celebrity advocates and the creative thinkers of our time. In addition to the cutting edge scientific and clinical information, what I truly aspires to give parents is hope. My guests run the gamut with interviews with the man called by the New York Times “The most powerful psychiatrist in the world” Dr Allen Frances, six interviews by Times Magazines Most Influential Person of the Year, Dr Temple Grandin and everything in between including Twilight actor Jackson Rathbone discussing his film Girlfriend featuring a lead actor with Down Syndrome.

On Inspire I feel the Chinese proverb explains it best – To Know The Road Ahead Ask Those Coming Back.  This statement has never been more true then when raising a special needs child or teen. To a special needs parent there is no better resource than one who has been there and can truly understand the emotions and experiences through living them. On Inspire I bring on those who have walked in your shoes with incredible stories of triumph and inspiration.  I aim to give parents the courage to stand up to conformity to get their child the education and the life they deserve.

I have amazing hosts who feature outstanding focused programming on The Special Needs Talk Radio Network:

SWH: Diane Kennedy and Rebecca Bank hosts of “Bright Not Broken 

MR: Diane and Rebecca are the authors of Bright Not Broken GIFTED KIDS, ADHD, AND AUTISM and The ADHD-Autism Connection with Dr Temple Grandin. Diane is the mother of three twice-exceptional sons who has spent over 18 years advocating for special needs children. Rebecca, a veteran educator who has spent nearly a decade teaching in inclusive classrooms, is the mother of two twice-exceptional children. Together, Diane and Rebecca will examine the issues around twice-exceptional children—that is, gifted kids with hidden disabilities such as ADHD, Asperger’s/autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, and related conditions. Their unique perspective and fresh approach will help parents, educators, and healthcare professionals understand who these kids are, why they’re stuck, and how to help them. In a time when the diagnostic system is in flux and education is under fire, this program will look unflinching at how proposed changes in these systems will affect twice-exceptional kids. The Bright Not Broken Radio Show will help listeners identify and maximize the talents of gifted kids with hidden disabilities.

SWH: Dr Richard Selznick hosts “School Struggles”

MR: Dr. Richard Selznick is a psychologist, nationally certified school psychologist, adjunct graduate school professor, assistant professor of pediatrics and school consultant. The author of two books, The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child and the recently published School Struggles: A Guide To Your Shut-Down Learner’s Success, he has presented to parents and educators internationally, as far as Dubai and Abu Dhabi and throughout the United States . A down-to-earth presenter who looks to discuss difficult topics in non-jargon terms, Dr. Selznick tries to present complex issues in down-to earth terms.

  • Stefanie Weis hosts “Ask Stefanie”

Stefanie is a Mental Health Consultant specializing in OCD, Anxiety, ADHD, PANDAS, and other related mental health disorders. She meets with the parents of children who have these disorders so that they can speak openly and honestly about their child. Based on an in- depth consultation and intake process, they collaborate on selecting a team of doctors that will be most appropriate for the child.  Stefanie brings us interviews with mental health experts on everyday issues parents with challenging kids encounter. 

  • Dr Russell Hyken hosts The Dr Hyken Show

Discussions about teens, young adults and the challenges they encounter.

Pre-adolescents, teenagers and college-age students all find Dr. Russell Hyken very approachable and so do parents and educators. Parenting an older teen or young adult has many challenges and transitioning into adulthood can be difficult especially for those with mental illness or challenging behaviors.

Russell Hyken specializes in education and psychotherapy for students ages 10 to 17 as well as young adults from 18 to 24. Essentially, he acts as a case manager for finding answers and developing a plan. Proper diagnosis of any issue – no matter what the stage of development – is the first step toward your son or daughter’s path to success. Dr. Hyken has invaluable information regarding the testing and evaluation expertise to find the correct diagnosis and it is that expertise he will be sharing with you.

  • Areva Martin is a guest host of The Areva Martin Show

Known to audiences across the country from her regular appearances on The Dr. Phil Show, as well as national stints on Fox News, CNN, NPR, and Court TV Radio Television, Areva Martin is one of television’s most in-demand legal experts/analysts. She is the founder of Special Needs Network and is the mother of a son with autism.

Areva is a quotable authority on workplace, disability rights, education, custody and women’s issues, this accomplished and multi-award winning lawyer, syndicated columnist, author and public speaker.

  • Respecting Autism w host Dr Gil Tippy – Premieres Summer 2013

Dr. Gil Tippy is the co-author of the book Respecting Autism with the late Dr. Stanley Greenspan.  Gil is considered one of the most respected in his field of Autism and related disorders. In the introduction to the book, Dr. Gill Tippy writes about his methodology in this way:

I want to be on the side of this debate that respects children. That treats children in the way that loving parents have treated children since man first walked upright. I want to be on the side of this debate that believes that children have feelings and thoughts, and that those feelings and thoughts are at least as valid as the feelings and thoughts of any adult. I want to be on the side of the debate that asks children what they want, that asks permission before we wipe a child’s nose, that does not rush.

We also have three outstanding special series: 

  •  The Child Mind Institute Series featuring their incredible team of psychiatrists join me for comprehensive interviews on all child and adolescent mental illnesses
  •  Columbia Psychiatry Child and Adolescent Series bring us mental illness interviews with cutting edge research and parenting guidance for teens with differences such as gay or lesbian or those at high risk for dangerous behaviors.
  •  The Maverick Mind Series with the woman who coined the phrase and wrote the book – literally – Dr Cheri Florance gives a five part series on understanding the highly visual thinker … the children with the maverick mind hosted by Ange Eaton an advocate for children with synesthesia and unique thinking styles.

 My sister network – Talking Special Needs offers five incredible highly focused programs

  • The Inclusive Class – Terri Mauro and Nicole Eredics – Inclusion in the classroom
  • Autism as they grow – Amalia Starr and Bobbi Sheahan – Autism from toddler to adulthood
  • Special Education Law and Rights with Jenn and Julie – Jenn Laviano and Julie Swanson 
  • Maximizing Your Childs Potential – Dr Gary Brannigan and Dr Howard Margolis – Dyslexia and Reading disabilities
  • Our Kids Can Thrive – Aviva Weiss and Ilana Danneman – Sensory solutions, Occupational Therapy, Gizmos and Gadgets.  From homework help to understanding sensory under responders and over responders.

SWH: What type of information do you provide?

MR: We provide information and empowerment to parents and educators in the special needs and mental health communities with interviews on all disabilities both physical and emotional with a strong focus on autism, neurobiological disorders and mental illness.  We cover topics from cutting edge research to practical parenting tips.  Our guests are literally the most influential and revered doctors in the world.  We also bring on internationally respected children’s foundations to offer support and direction.

Our website provides resources, support programs, special education and disability law pages and our social media network includes Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Itunes. All our shows are available to listen to any time in archive on Blog Talk Radio and are offered free to download on Itunes.

SWH: How do you find guest for the shows? Are they by invitation only?

MR: Yes, all our guests are hand picked by the hosts and are considered the most renowned in the world. We do invite parents, educators and professionals to submit their blog writings to be chosen bloggers on our website blog to share their information as well.  We must be doing something right as we have over a quarter of a million listeners!

SWH: What has been the most challenging aspect of starting and running this sort of project?

MR: Managing and producing ten or twelve radio shows is a full time job which was not something I had expected to take on when I started this as a simple Twitter tweetchat.   Ensuring that the information I provide is evidence based and accurate is a big responsibility which I take very seriously.  Funding the network is also an important part of my work because just as our guests are hand picked, so are our sponsors.  I truly feel that everyone involved in this venture need be as dedicated to these special children and the quality of the network.

SWH: What has been the most rewarding part of your work?

MR: There is no better feeling then when a parent writes or call and says ….. Thank you, your show changed my child’s life and gave me courage and hope ….. Who can ask for more than that?

 I would like to thank Marianne for taking the time to talk with us.  You can also find Marianne at her personal website www.thelifeunexpected.com.  You can also find on Twitter @Marianne_Russo and The Coffee Klatch at @TheCoffeeKlatch. 

Our live Twitter chat, Giving Special Needs Children a Voice, with Marianne will start at 8PM EST on June 24th.  To participate use hashtag #SWUnited.   @poliSW will be moderating this discussion. 

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Rachel L. West is the Founder of the Political Social Worker, a blog dedicated to macro social work and politics. She holds a BA in History from SUNY Stony Brook and an MSW from Adelphi University. She is a community outreach and engagement specialist. Rachel resides in New York State, and she is available as a consultant and coach. You can find out more about Rachel at The Political Social Worker at (politicalsocialworker.org).

          
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Disability

Four Ways Neurodiversity Holds the Key to the Future of Special Education

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For ages, special education has been developing on its own, together with the development of ordinary education. It emphasizes disorders and the ways special education students are lacking compared to an average student. Those who have a noticeable dysfunction have even been mocked for their lack of focus or skill to learn something – sometimes by teachers too.

And even though the history of the special education has been filled with inappropriate names and terms, the future is bright. More and more scientists and educators are turning to the better ways of conducting special education – and one of those ways is related to neurodiversity.

This term was first used by journalist Harvey Blume in the early 1990s and means that autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other special-needs conditions are the part of normal variations in the human population. And here is how neurodiversity changes the entire special education system.

1. In theory.

Special education as it is at the moment regards disability categories as something originated from biology, genetics, and neurology. Neurodiversity, on the other hand, focuses on the advantages these disabilities have to offer – they use this to explain why these genes are still here today and why people are still born with disabilities.

This new concept examines how a person with a disability can be lacking in some aspects but even more advanced than regular people in some. During the past decade, university programs such as London School of Economics’ Dyslexia and Neurodiversity program, or the College of William & Mary’s Neurodiversity Initiative are aimed to support neurodiverse students and create positive acceptance and niches for them.

Annabel Gray, neurodiversity specialist and educator at Origin Writings states, “Regarding a person as completely disabled is fundamentally wrong. Whereas a person with, for example, autism can be lacking in some areas of life, on a job which requires focus and attention to detail, this same person would do outstandingly well.”

2. The focus.

The focus of special education so far has been solely on assessing deficits and how to go about educating students based on these deficits. However, neurodiversity relies more on assessing the strengths, talents, abilities, and interests of disabled students. It is a strength-based approach where an educator would use a series of tests to discover the student’s abilities and teach them how to use them to tackle their everyday and educational challenges.

What is so great about neurodiversity approach is it gives the students all the necessary tools to cope with their day to day life by focusing on what they do best. This way the students are not feeling left out and they know there are some things where they can thrive in.

3. Workarounds.

Workarounds are another way the neurodiversity improves the disabled students’ lives. What it essentially means is the educators are supposed to find ways for students to experience and learn which does not include their disabilities. For example, students with ADHD could be allowed to use special tools like stability balls or standing desks in order to focus on studying.

This could be expanded to create an individual education plan for each student based on what they need and in which environment they thrive the most. Placing those students in the traditional learning environment will help them to feel “lesser human being” or a burden.

Lila Christie, an educator at 1Day2Write and WriteMyX confirms: “Workarounds are some of the best ways of teaching the disabled students. We implement this strategy of putting each student in an environment that will allow them to learn without anything in the way. It not only works but also gives students the satisfaction and comfort.”

4. How to communicate with students.

While most special education programs still teach children about their disabilities, neurodiversity teaches them about the value of variation and being different. It teaches them how their brain works and how the environment affects it, how to use their skills to the maximum etc. This kind of mindset can help them realize the growth mindset can improve their performance.

To get the brain to its full potential it is important to get the students exercising in various ways, each suited to their own abilities – writing exercises are excellent ways to improve brain power and it can be easily accessible to students through tools such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Windows Speech Recognition, etc.

Conclusion

Neurodiversity is a great new approach to special education. It gives students opportunities and new ways of understanding themselves. This is a fresh take on educating those with disabilities – in fact, it relies more on their abilities and strengths. It can give students confidence and tools to be successful and do more later in their lives.

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How Reflecting on My Choice to do Prenatal Tests Made Me a Better Social Worker

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My professor asked me to reflect on the ways in which I have engaged in ableism as a social work student. While I could not think of a professional instance, I was able to reflect back on my personal life about a time that I did engage in ableism. Recently, I gave birth to my son, my first child, back in January of this year.

Toward the beginning of my pregnancy, I believe around week 12, the obstetrician sat me down and started to discuss optional screenings that they could do that would determine whether the baby had any disabilities, such as Down Syndrome. As soon as she started explaining all the different tests, I knew I was going to choose to have at least one done. In the end, I chose one of the least invasive but more accurate tests.

Whenever someone asked why I was getting the test (as I wasn’t high risk, and am on the younger side), I would tell them I just wanted to be able to be prepared. I told them that I wanted to be able to prepare my house or to get necessary equipment or other things that might be needed by my child.

However, leading up to the test I began to have dreams about getting ‘bad news’ from the doctor. I also had dreams in which my doctor told me that there was ‘something wrong’ with my baby. I started to realize that it wasn’t my house that I would have to prepare, it would have to be myself!

Slowly, I came to the understanding that if I got the news that my child had a disability, I would need some time to process and accept that news. I think that I struggled with the belief that my child would have a ‘lesser life’ if they were born with a disability. In addition, I think that a part of my process would have been going through the grieving process as I would have been grieving the ‘perfect child’ that I imagine many pregnant women imagine when they first find out they are pregnant.

In my readings for my course on social work practice with people with disabilities, I learned how genetic testing connects to the medical model of disability. As my textbook discussed, the testing and the possible results were only presented to me by my medical team through a medical model lens, versus a social model of disability lens.

My medical team informed me of the genetic reasoning behind any of the possible disabilities that could be discovered but did not include any information regarding what my child’s life would be like if the test was positive. It would have been beneficial to hear about the lives of people living with some of the disabilities.

This could have possibly calmed my nerves as well as avoided my ableist thinking. My hope is that for patients who do have a positive test, their medical team can learn to sit down with them and go into further detail about what a child’s life will and can look like. I think this could help a parent-to-be process that news in a not-so-negative way. I believe that a discussion like this could help patients understand that the only options are not abortion or a child with a ‘lesser life.’

As a social work professional, it is important to always reflect on and examine our own ableism. In our society, we have been witness to countless ableist thoughts and beliefs throughout our lives. These beliefs become the standard way of thinking and affect our interactions with people with disabilities.

Therefore, it is essential for a social worker to reflect on their own ableist thoughts and practices in order to be able to change their way of thinking – and practicing! Once the social worker is able to do this work, their practice with people with disabilities has the potential to be so much more valuable.

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On Stacking Books in the Library, and Undoing My Own Ableism

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My first job right out of high school was working in a public library. I was one of three library pages who would put books away in order to maintain the bookshelves. A majority of the library staff watched me grow up in that building, and I was given my first opportunity at an internship the year before. I was very bonded to the staff and to the building itself. Working there reminded me a great deal of my childhood.

“Violet” was one of the book pages I worked alongside. For as long as I can remember, she had always worked at the library, it was almost as if she came with the building. Violet retired the year the building was given a grant to be rebuilt, which I always found to be appropriate timing. As a child, I could always count on Violet to be in the fiction section of the library.

Walking in, I knew I would find her pursing her lips and mumbling to herself while she put the cart of books away. Typically, she would stop me, and let me know I looked just like my mother and would then ask after her, right before complimenting me for the season I reminded her of, Autumn. By the time I began to work at the library, Violet was an elderly woman. She would come into the library every morning at 8:45 a.m. with fifteen minutes to spare, so she could sit on the ratty old orange couch in the staff lounge for ten minutes and then spend the last five minutes greeting staff as they came in before getting to her book cart.

Violet was meticulous at keeping time and budgeted herself to shelving two carts for the three hours she would work every day. Some days she was overly ambitious and was able to complete two and a half carts, but that was rare. Once she finished her shift she would grab her things from the staff lounge and go home. Later I learned Violet had a schedule she followed daily, consisting of breakfast at the Tea Cup Café, a walk to work, completion of her shift and then a return to the Tea Cup Café before going home. She lived alone and had a visiting nurse who would come to her home twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Once I had gotten really efficient at keeping my shelves well maintained, I would go down and help Violet with her books. At this point, I was shelving three to four carts an hour. Many times, I would put Violet’s books in alphabetical order for her on the cart so all she had to do was shelve while I walked around after her and fixed her shelves to make them look as “fronted and faced” as mine.

After several weeks of doing this, I was taken aside by my supervisor and asked that I not help Violet because Violet was capable of doing her own work and she took the time she did because she had schizophrenia. I was not aware of this, and always felt I was doing what was “right” because Violet was elderly and honestly, seemed to me to present as not very aware of her surroundings. It wasn’t until I was told of Violet having a diagnosis of schizophrenia that I realized why she presented the way she did.

I learned later on that she had been institutionalized for many years as a young woman until her brother and sister were old enough to discharge her from the facility she was in. Violet came from a time where health practitioners believed it was best to lock away persons with disabilities and forget them. This process is consistent with the manifestation of oppression through what is referred to by disability advocates as ‘containment.’ Society would rather hide Violet away than have her become a productive member of society or teach her skills because her life was less valuable than that of a person without a disability.

Violet and I never discussed her past or her diagnoses for the four years she and I worked together. After learning of Violet’s diagnosis, I realized I had been practicing ableism by doing her work for her and immediately stopped. I was not allowing Violet to do the work she was capable of because I assumed she couldn’t do it. Following this incident, I learned to ask before assisting her because I wanted to ensure I was respecting her ability to work at her own pace and do what she had been doing for thirty plus years.

The irony of it all is my brother has schizophrenia and it wasn’t until I met Violet. that I realized the importance and effectiveness of a routine but also, knowing Violate gave me hope that my brother might someday find himself in a similar position where he could function independently from my parent’s care.

The last year I worked at the library, Violet could no longer live independently due to needing around the clock assistance and eventually moved to a nursing home where she passed away some years ago. Every so often I visit the library and think of the woman who taught me about resiliency but also gave me a perspective that I keep with me always.

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Disability

Let People Who are Non-Verbal Communicate in their Own Way: A Social Work Challenge

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While working at a disability group home agency, I came to know“ Jane,” a person with Rett Syndrome. Jane was non-verbal and was unable to walk independently. She used a specialized walker to move around. In addition, she developed her own sign language in order to communicate. During the day, Jane would attend a day program which gave all nonverbal clients computers that had the “Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)” system on it.

Jane was required to use it at the day program and was also encouraged to continue using it at the group home. Yet, when Jane would take home the computer, she would leave it in her bedroom. Jane did this because she didn’t like it and was comfortable with her own form of communication. The day program became insistent on Jane using the computer at home, so the director insisted Jane use the form of communication provided to her. Jane refused to use the computer and threw it across the room because she was so upset about being asked to do so. The day program still required Jane to use the computer while at the day program, however, once she was in her home she didn’t use it and the staff did not force her to do so.

As a social worker, I would first ask whether Jane wanted to use the PECS system. When disability studies scholar Tom Shakespeare was discussing the social model of disability which infers society is disabling versus the person who is disabled. He argued the idea of this practice is to make society adapt to people with disabilities which would include allowing for people’s own communication choice to be honored or it could include providing accommodations like the PECS system for non-verbal clients. One of the barriers of the social model of disability is trying to make accommodations for people with disabilities without choice.

The PECS system might work well for one client who is non-verbal, but it did not suit Jane and she did not want to use it. Shakespeare described limitations with the social model-informed practice as assuming there could be a “utopia” for people with disabilities as there would be no barriers. People with disabilities do not all function or adapt the same way so it is unrealistic to be able to accommodate everyone and it is insulting to force accommodations on people with disabilities if they do not want to utilize that specific accommodation.

If Jane was given the option to use or not use the PECS system, it would be realizing the social model-informed practice because society is making the change and not expecting her to change. By forcing the PECS system on Jane, it is reverting back to the medical model practice because the program is making Jane adjust instead of learning Jane’s sign language.

Jane also used a specialized walker. I would engage in medical model-informed practice (where the focus is on the impairment that leads to disability) by acknowledging it was Jane’s body part that was impaired, and therefore disabled her. This is another limitation of the social model-informed practice.

As social model-informed practice is so focused on society being the barrier that it does not always acknowledge that a person’s body can also be the barrier. The medical model-informed practice is what helped Jane receive the specialized walker because Jane’s body was the barrier and she wanted to walk as independently as she could. The social model-informed practice can also be used by ensuring there are ramps for Jane so she can have easy accessibility.

From the macro level of social work, I believe we are on the right track with the social-model informed practice. However, this model is not complex enough to include everyone. Intersectionality does not seem to be taken into consideration with this model, which is a complicating and limiting factor.

A strong model needs to be developed to acknowledge the complexities of people and their disabilities. A person’s environment, gender, race and other social identities need to be considered when developing models which was not the case since the group of activists who rallied for this model were white heterosexual men.

The first step to be taken by every social worker should be to ask the person with the disability “what can be done to support you?” or “what do you believe needs to be changed so you do not continue to feel oppressed or feel like your voice is not being heard?”

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Language Is Power: Two Things You Need to Know for Practice with Disabled People

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Did you know that over one fifth of the United States population has an impairment that leads to a disability? Given this, social workers are bound to engage in practice with disabled people across many service sectors – a reality which leads to the need for disability competence – and that includes competence around language choices.

Whether you are working in child welfare, employee assistance programs, criminal justice or end-of-life care, you will need some guidance on how to approach your work with disabled people in a respectful manner. Here are two helpful things you need to know to be a better social worker in partnership with disabled people.

First, it is always ideal to look to your professional association for guidance. In the case of practice with the disability community, the National Association of Social Workers not only has a disability policy statement, but they also have made a major change to their Code of Ethics (CoE).

The CoE is the guidepost in our profession, and in setting out standards for practice, it names a series of diversity factors, including, for example, race, ethnicity and national origin. Until the most recent revision of the CoE however, disability was the only diversity factor that was not framed in a positive light.

To rectify this, the current version of the CoE replaces the term “disability” with “ability” in order to present a more strength-based framework that can counteract dominant society norms that belie the capacities of disabled people. Specifically, the CoE states that social workers should “obtain education and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression” with respect to people with varying abilities.

While this may be a turn off to people that embrace identity-first language (i.e. disabled people vs. people with disabilities), as a disabled person, I believe that this simple change is helpful, and does not fall into the camp of widely-rejected, outdated and offensive terms such as “differently abled,” “handicapped,” or “special needs” that are often used by well-intentioned people. Check out, for example, Lydia X. Z. Brown’s glossary of ableist phrases.

Second, it is also always a best practice to learn more about the language preferences from our clients’ cultural communities. Lately, not a day goes by on my Twitter feed when I don’t see commentary from disabled people about their preferences for either person-first language or identity-first language.

Check out the #identityfirst hashtag, for example. For many years, social workers were encouraged to use person-first language as a way of showing respect, as opposed to labeling someone as “a schizophrenic,” or “autistic,” for example, both of which were felt to have negative connotations at the time.

Proponents of identity-first language have reclaimed such terms by embracing their disability identity first. For example, a well-known disability rights leader prefers to be called Autistic, and another advocate prefers to be referred to as mad (signifying mental illness).

For social workers new to practice with disabled people, an ideal approach could involve using approaches interchangeably until it is clear what type of language is preferred by the client in question. Remember, language is a key component to client engagement, and, therefore, language is power.

Regardless of whether you are identifying populations with varying abilities, or honoring your clients’ wishes for person-first or identity-first language, the most important thing is to see people for who they are, not for the stereotypes or assumptions that often precede them.

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Scottish Journal For Residential Care: Final Call for Views and Experiences of Disability

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The Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care (SJRCC) is inviting submissions for a special themed issue on disability to be published in December 2018.

We are seeking ideas for papers now on any aspect of disability and residential child care – or indeed any aspect of care, or leaving care. We’d like to hear from academics, from people involved in caregiving, and from young people reflecting on their own experience of care and disability.

Although published here in Scotland, the Journal has an international outlook. And this makes sense because concerns about the welfare of children in care is a global one, and international comparison provides us all with an opportunity to develop research, policy, and practice.

We’re always looking for contributors from across the globe to share their wide and varied experience – from practitioners, managers, researchers, and policy folk, to young people with experience of the care system.

Papers from countries other than Scotland are particularly welcome.

Submit now

If you would like to be considered, please email our Guest Editors by Wednesday 31 January: sjrcc@strath.ac.uk. You will need to provide:

  • a paragraph with your ideas
  • five keywords
  • your brief biograph (maximum 70 words).

Brief for contributors

We welcome:

  • Academic papers of up to 6000 words in length
  • Practice accounts of up to 2000 words in length
  • Using everyday life activities with individuals with disabilities
  • ‘Breakthrough’ moments when someone showed surprising potential
  • Reflections on situations which helped a fuller understanding of someone’s needs
  • Creating positive environments
  • Changing approaches – working therapeutically.

Open call: submit your ideas and work to the journal

We welcome and publish a real variety of articles and papers on all topics related to residential child care.

  • Peer-reviewed academic papers
  • Short reflections or commentaries on research, policy or practice
  • Methodological papers from doctoral studies
  • Accounts of relevant conferences
  • Book reviews
  • Obituaries

For more details, download our submission pack.

The Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care is a peer-reviewed, open access e-journal which aims to provide a rich forum for debate and dissemination about the topical issues in residential child care research, policy and practice.

The topics covered are wide-ranging and relate to all aspects of residential childcare, including the interface between residential care and other contexts, such as health, education and other care settings, as well as topics relating to children’s wellbeing in public care.

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