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Building Independence / Community Hub / Community Partners / Families/Carers

Add a dose of inclusion at your Christmas gatherings.

By Jennifer Lumsden, December 19 2019

You know the scene, the family get together at Christmas can produce feelings of anxiety and involve stressful or awkward social encounters. Many surveys show that Christmas is an increased time of stress and social isolation. People with disability are even more likely to experience social distress with many saying they avoid visiting family and friends.

It is timely to remind ourselves how to communicate more effectively with our friends and family.

Here are some tips for a more inclusive and enjoyable time together.

• Avoid asking personal questions about someone’s disability.

• Be considerate of the extra time it might take for a person to do or say something.

• Be polite and patient when offering assistance, and wait until your offer is accepted. Listen or ask for specific instructions. Be prepared for your offer to be refused.

• Relax. Anyone can make mistakes. Offer an apology if you feel you have caused embarrassment. Keep a sense of humour and be willing to communicate.

• Talk directly to the person – Do not assume they cannot understand what you are saying.

• Always show respect – speak to people with a disability the same way you would speak to anyone else, and in your normal voice.

• Avoid any reference to ‘us’ and ‘them’.

• Consider talking beforehand to other guests who will be present at the gathering about how best to include everyone, there may be others who need consideration like family members with hearing, mobility or sight limitations.

Remember language makes a big difference, so avoid words like ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped’, instead, use the person’s name and refer to ‘person with a disability’ or ‘person with autism’ or a ‘person with diabetes’ and any time is a good time to pepper your speech with kindness. Don’t refer to adults with intellectual disability as children.

Try to organise the event to meet the needs of the person with a disability, for example, some people with autism will not manage too much noise or too many people and will need a quiet place to restore calm. Given the circumstances, there may be some distress expressed during the day, in that case, extra patience is the best strategy, and avoid casting judgement.

Why not make sure one the great Christmas traditions is a ‘must-do’ at your gathering, for everyone, an afternoon nap, play board games,  get out in nature, backyard cricket or some screen time.

With some planning, EVERYONE can be included this Christmas.

Remember disability itself need not be disempowering instead it is people’s attitude and behaviours, which can be.



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