Start with Dignity and Respect
My Brave Souls project of the evening has been writing out a list of tips and suggestions for volunteers who assist our photographers.
As we grow, we know we have to hand certain things off to others because no one can do it all. We also know there are a lot of amazing, capable, and kind people in the world who might want to help us on our mission.
These folks are wonderful, but many have not walked our path. That of the special needs educators and parents who started this whole thing. So, I thought I would make a list from my own arsenal of knowledge. There are some tips here and there if you google it, but I felt the lists were all lacking.
People are all so amazing and different and we do our best to always be supportive and kind during photo shoots.
Then, as I was writing, I thought to myself… really, this would be good information for anyone.
So, I’m going to share some of the peak points I found as I wrote down my growing list of tips and suggestions for our photo shoot assistants.
Start with dignity and respect. Dignity is very important to my family. Alive or not, we speak of Jake with respect and dignity. He did not talk or walk. We never even knew for sure where he was developmentally. But, we did know we wanted him to be treated with respect and dignity by those he crossed paths with. So, my husband and I made sure we modeled that behavior. Treat everyone you meet with respect and dignity.
When someone is affected by a cognitive disability, it’s good to remind yourself that it is a spectrum. Someone might walk and talk and act like a typical human at their proper age level and everything, but they might be fighting everything in their power to use therapy they have learned to look “together” on the outside. You never know. Never assume you know.
When someone is non-verbal, it does not mean they are delayed cognitively. Though, it can. Talk to them and with them. Make conversation with them. Use their name, look at them. Use an age appropriate tone and appropriate language. Put yourself at eye level with them if you can. If they use a device to communicate, be patient and listen.
If someone uses a wheelchair or adapted mobility device, remember that cognitive ability is a spectrum and the use of a wheelchair does not always mean someone also has a cognitive disability, though it can. Never push someone’s wheelchair without asking. Some folks need a push, some do it themselves, some need help with a door, some don’t. Never assume, ask questions instead.
I also suggested asking questions, but not giving advice. The people who live with disabilities, cognitive or physical or any unique and beautiful combination of the two, do not need advice. They need support. They need love. They need kindness. At least, I know that’s what we needed.
I am speaking from what I learned from Jacob and what I’ve learned from the women I started this with and all the amazing people who we have met along the way.
Do you live with a disability? What would you add to the list?