A Unique Life to Live

People with disabilities have often been seen and described as “those people” – and segregation and congregation often increase the tendency to see people as a ‘clump’ or a group, who are much the same, or even identical to each other. One strategy which is taught within the framework of Social Role Valorization is to individualize services and supports, and that can start with our own mindsets and the mindsets of others (another powerful theme of our teaching).

Autism Society of West Bengal took on this issue of individualization by asking what they can do to assist the staff to see each child they serve as a unique person, different from every other soul, and with unique attributes, potential, characteristics, and even dreams. After all, every time a teacher opens a student file, full of cookie-cutter planning documents and list of deficiencies, they are likely to get reinforced for seeing their students as all the same.

With this view in mind, ASWB initiated an important step of change by making a highly individualized, colorful, image-enhancing, creative one-page profile placed prominently on the cover of each student’s file. Now, no one can open young Asma’s file without seeing her as an interesting, unique, valued person at the very first glance. That’s a great way to start out on the right foot, before her file is even opened. The one-page profiles are full of positive characteristics, interesting facts, and a lovely image of the student. The same one page profile was also introduced in short-term parent-child training courses, where teacher and parent discussed and made the one-page profile together. Families find these to be positive, affirming discussions and the creation of beautiful representative images to be in themselves uplifting, understanding that they will go on to inform other teachers and supporters that this is a child worth knowing. Way to go, ASWB. These simple methods have an impact on mind sets and on how children will be treated.