Five Things You Can Do Today To Be Inclusive: A Special Conversation

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Five Things You Can Do Today To Be Inclusive: A Special Conversation

     We all hear about the need to be inclusive but what are actions you can do to promote this idea?  I have 5 tips for you today to help you be inclusive when interacting with someone with special needs. Have a conversation and enjoy what that person has to say! When I wrote these, I thought about people with special needs, but these tips can be for anyone. We all want to be valued and have a conversation with others.

1. Listen and learn about other people’s experiences. When you talk to someone with special needs, you will find out that person’s likes and dislikes. You might find that you are more alike than different. Everyone needs to feel valued and that their thoughts and ideas are important. Take the time to have a conversation. That person might have insights you may have missed.

2. Use respectful language showing you respect and value the person you are speaking with. Do not talk down to them or be condescending in any way. Speak to the person like you would anyone else. Use the same body language and tone to show respect and appreciation for the other person. Assume competence and have a thoughtful conversation. Everyone has different life experiences, and conversing with a person with special needs might give you a different point of view and expand your horizons. Showing respectful language can also mean showing respectful body language and encouraging verbal cues.


3. Give direct feedback if the feedback could help the person do a better job. Sometimes it is important to model how a conversation should go. A good way to start doing this for someone with difficulty with turn-taking is to have a pencil or any object you choose to remind us that we take turns in a conversation. The first person says something, holding the pencil, then gives the other person the pencil to signal that it is his turn to speak. Ask questions because the more you can ask, the better you will be at talking and communicating with any person with special needs. Having a back-and-forth conversation where both people contribute is an important skill for everyone.


4. Stop interruptions  and when you hear others interrupt, say, ” I’d like to hear what Pat has to say.” This shows that everyone can have a turn and practice active listening skills. This is a skill that everyone can use to hear what others are saying. Face the speaker and have eye contact. Listen without judging, or jumping to conclusions. Stay focused on the speaker and do not start planning what to say next. This all helps ensure that you hear the other person and that the other person knows you are listening to what they say.


5. Learn what to do when you make a mistake. The words, “I am sorry” are potent. No one is perfect, and growth occurs when we are strong enough to say sorry. Modeling this is important to show others it is okay to say sorry. When you say you are sad you show the other person that you care about them, and it helps build a more positive relationship with that person.


     We can all learn many valuable things from people with special needs. Everyone has the same needs when it comes to connection and love. These tips apply to anyone and remind me of the Golden Rule; Treat others how you want to be treated, or in this case, “Support others as you wish to be supported.”  Think about awareness, acceptance, and inclusion.