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How do you react to a child with a disability who’s acting out?

How do you react to a child with a disability who’s acting out?

How do you react to a child with a disability who’s acting out?

Many of us have seen it: A child with an intellectual or developmental disability has an outburst in the grocery store … or he or she talks loudly or laughs unexpectedly in a restaurant … or there’s a behavior that draws attention and makes it clear to everyone that this individual is “different.”

We’ve also all seen what can happen next. Shocked stares. Awkward whispering. Cautious glances. People moving away. We’ve seen how this affects the caregivers: They look around apologetically, trying to say “I’m sorry” with their eyes as they deal with the situation. What’s the right thing to do?

Jenny Peters and Donna Hammock are here from Damar Services to help navigate those kinds of situations.About Damar Services:

  • For more than 50 years, Damar has been a leader in providing services to children and adults challenged by autism and other developmental and behavioral disabilities. Damar’s main campus is on Indianapolis’ southwest side, there’s a northeast side clinic and other locations across the state. Damar also offers residential and community-based treatment, outpatient behavioral health services and ABA Autism Services by Damar. In addition, Damar operates two schools and provides foster care services.
  • Donna recently joined Damar to help educate parents of children being served by Damar navigate the care experience and to help others better understand people with differences.
  • Donna has a lot of experience. She’s the grandmother and primary caregiver of a child with Down Syndrome. But she’s also dealt with stares, awkward glances and questions all of her life because she’s a “little person.”
  • As a result of that double experience, she has some guidance to help people know how to act when they encounter someone with special needs, whether that individual is “acting out” somehow or simply being themselves.

What are some tips for those times when you witness a child’s outburst or unexpected behaviors?

  1. Don’t ignore it. Acknowledge the situation by making eye contact with the caregiver and show your compassion by smiling.
  2. Don’t shush your kids or jerk them away.Children are naturally curious, and while some of their questions would be inappropriate coming from adults, they’re understandable from a child.
  3. Don’t get angry. “Can’t you control your kid?” is not an appropriate response to a caregiver when a child is having an episode of some sort in public.
  4. Do offer a kind word.Gently touch the caregiver on the shoulder and say, “Is there anything I can do help?”
  5. Do give the caregiver some grace. If you do offer to help or simply give a little reassurance, in the heat of the moment, the parent or caregiver might snap at you, but give him or her a break. In the middle of a difficult situation, it can be hard to react the best way, but the odds are good that your compassion will be appreciated.

Check out the “Choose Kind” blog post on Damar’s website.

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