Making a Difference
What Attitudes, Skills And
Knowledge Are The Keys To
Making A Difference?
Making a Difference
Nora J. Baladerian, Ph.D.
Making a Difference
For the Online Conference
September 9, 2004
Purpose of Training
• Expand knowledge and skills to more
effectively intervene with children and
adults with disabilities.
Barriers to Effective & Sensitive Interviewing
of Individuals with Intellectual and/or
Cognitive Impairments/Differences
• Lack of information about mental
retardation & other (Developmental)
• Cultural and informational differences due
• Segregation
• Exclusion, and
• Disability
• Unexamined myths and stereotypes that
result in prejudice, fear and negative
• Devaluing
• Dehumanizing
• Distancing
• Limited or lack of personal contact with
individuals with similar backgrounds
• Belief that individuals with mental illness or
communication differences cannot be
effectively or reliably interviewed.
Attitudes as Feelings
Attitudes as beliefs
Attitudes as myths
Beliefs as stereotypes
Translation of our thinking into action
Attitudes, beliefs & feelings can change
Attitudes as Feelings
• Our attitudes are built by observing then
mimicking our teachers:
 Parents
 Siblings
 Neighbors
 School teachers
 Peers
Attitudes as Feelings
• We internalize and externally demonstrate
what we have been taught:
• To look down on others for their difference
to “us”.
• To “group” others and ourselves, then
value one above the other.
Attitudes as Feelings
• We learn to actually FEEL that one IS
better than the other only because of
values we have chosen to adopt from our
disability-negative society.
• We learn to actually BELIEVE that our
feeling is accurate or “right”.
• We are not told that we can develop our
own personal set of values,
Attitudes as Feelings
• We are not told that we can develop our
own personal set of values.
• We DISCOVER that we can develop our
own personal set of values, such as, “All
people are important. It does not matter
whether or not they have a disability, are
of a particular gender, race, religion, ethnic
Feelings Drive our Behavior
• How we feel, regardless of our awareness
of the feeling, drives our behavior.
Feelings Drive our Behavior
• We may unthinkingly use words of facial
expressions (looks) that are painful to the
individual with a disability.
 For example, talking ABOUT the person with
their family or assistants instead of talking TO
the person.
Feelings Drive our Behavior
• We may fail to do “as much” or “equal”
service to our clients who have disabilities.
 For example, not offer them a brochure or
reading material under the assumption that
they will not be able to benefit from having it.
Attitudes: Us and Them
• We have developed a strongly “ist”
society…negative valuing and
feelings about others…
Attitudes: Measuring Value
• Those who are valued most in our
society are:
• Men or women?
• Tall or short?
• With or without a disability
• UNLESS balanced by
• Great wealth
• Great intellect
Attitudes: Pygmalion
• Our culture highly values fluency of speech,
clear speech production, and a good
• This is then quickly translated into perceived
intellection prowess.
Attitudes: Pygmalion
• If such prowess is lacking, there often occurs
a “lesser valuing” of the individual.
• Those who have mental retardation or other
disabilities that effect their speech or
language skills cannot meet these standards.
• Yet, they certainly are able to effectively
describe what has happened to them.
Attitudes: As Beliefs
• Attitudes ARE beliefs, reinforced over time by
repetition, along with feelings.
Attitudes: As Beliefs
• Attitudes can be negative or positive.
• Attitudes, built on false information,
demean both the holder of the attitude and
the person(s) toward whom the negative
attitude is directed.
Attitudes: As Beliefs
• Translation to Crime Victims with
 They take too much time…we can’t allocate
THAT MUCH time to JUST ONE victim
 They need too many resources…we cannot
afford an interpreter!
Attitudes: As Beliefs
• Translation to Crime Victims with
 They need more than we can provide…we
don’t have an accessible room for the
 They create too much trouble…we can’t make
our facility ADA accessible just for a few
Attitudes: As Beliefs
• Translation to Crime Victims with
 We can’t train all of our staff to use the TDD
for Deaf or Hard of Hearing crime victims…or
those with Speech impairments.
 We can’t take the time to learn all the rules
about Relay services or Speech-to-Speech
Examples from Children
• These attitudes are more obvious,
perhaps, in watching kids who have
learned these disability-negative attitudes.
Examples from Children
• Taunting, teasing & making fun of other
kids because of their disability
• Physically attacking and killing kids with
• Using epithets such as “you retard” or “You
Examples from Children
• These behaviors contribute to the attacked
child beginning to feel unworthy, unwanted
and “less than” those who attack
• Not to mention unsafe.
Beliefs as Myths
• There are ideas that we have been taught,
or as a society casually create, that
through repetition and absence of a
balancing discussion on the other side of
the coin, become part of our belief system.
• Here are some that may have a negative
impact on our effectiveness.
Beliefs as Myths about People
with Disabilities
• Cannot remember
• Make up stories to get attention
• Will never be a credible witness
Beliefs as Myths about People
with Disabilities
• Cannot understand enough
• Cannot be understood by the interviewer
• Are not really necessary as a witness
Beliefs as Myths about People
with Disabilities
• They are just going to change their story
later, and therefore are unreliable…they
were lying then or they are lying now.
• They just cannot distinguish the truth from
a lie.
Beliefs as Myths about People
with Disabilities
• They cannot understand the
consequences for lying.
• They don’t have a sufficient or correct
vocabulary to describe the abuse.
Beliefs as Myths about People
with Disabilities
• Alternative methods of communication
cannot be used…they are not reliable.
• The individual is just plain not bright
enough to repeat their story.
Crazy Thinking
This describes the process by which
negative attitudes in combination with
belief in myths and stereotypes can create
an action plan that is completely without
merit in resolving a problem AND would
never be considered for a similar individual
or circumstance but for the disability.
Crazy Thinking
Just add the word “disability” to any
discussion and things change in a hurry.
“My boss is really a terrific guy. Fun, funny,
creative, intelligent…AND available for a
keynote. By the way, he has Cerebral
Palsy & uses FC. Would that make a
Crazy Thinking
Questions are asked about consent to sex
for a victim of a violent rape that was so
vicious that surgery was required to repair
wounds inflicted upon her.
Crazy Thinking
A suggestion that an adult with mental
retardation receive treatment at a
Children’s Advocacy Center for the sexual
assault she suffered “…after all, she’s just
a big kid since she has a mental age of 7.”
Crazy Thinking
A suggestion that an adult with mental
retardation receive Sex Education (instead
of psychotherapy) as “treatment” for the
gang rape he experienced.
Crazy Thinking
Parent of a teenager, along with the
professional case management team, had
him sterilized because they feared he may
become gay.
Crazy Thinking
Young teenager removed from his home,
school and neighborhood for patting the
clothed and diapered bottom of a 2 year
old in full view of the parent. Sexual
assault charges let to placing him in an
institution for 2 years far from home, to
learn appropriate sexual conduct.
Crazy Thinking
IT IS UNLIKELY that any of these plans
would ever occur to anyone unless there
was a severe mental disability. Certainly,
they would not be implemented.
P.C. or Respect?
• The language we use…words and
phrases…show our feelings and attitudes.
To demonstrate respect and high regard
for others, it is important to use the words
those of that “group” have agreed is most
pleasing to them.
P.C. or Respect?
• Racially and ethnically, we have adapted
to changes over the decades in preferred
language to use such as Latinos or
Hispanics, and Blacks or AfricanAmericans, rather than terms that in the
past had been preferred.
• Likewise for people with disabilities, it is
important to “keep up” as changes occur.
P.C. or Respect?
• People HAVE disabilities, not ARE
• Thus one would say, “the young man who
HAS Down Syndrome”
• One would say, “Johnny, who has cerebral
• If there is no need to mention the
P.C. or Respect?
• If the boss gets a cold, one would not say,
“The boss IS a cold”, one would say, “the
boss HAS a cold”.
Do’s and Don’ts
• Use “People First” language
• Avoid any permutation of the word
“retarded” except as a diagnosis
• Don’t’ say “handicapped, cripples, lame,
deaf & dumb”
• Say, “people who have disabilities and
people who are Deaf”
Do’s and Don’ts
• Use powerful images such as “uses a
wheelchair” NOT “wheelchair bound” or
“the wheelchair guy”.
• Don’t GROUP people with disabilities.
There are probably more differences
among those who have disabilities than
compared to those who do not!
Why is this so important?
Negative attitudes towards people with
disabilities has been identified as the most
significant barrier for those with
disabilities…much more so than the
disability itself.
Why Training is Important
• So similarities and differences wont’ get
• To improve the experience of crime and
abuse victims with Disabilities.
• To expand skills, knowledge and cultural
understanding of members of this
• C - Compassion
• R - Respect
• E - Empathy
• D - Dignity
• O - Open to needs of the
Overview of Disabilities
In the United States, the Department of
Labor estimates that there are 54 million
individuals with disabilities, representing
20 % of the population
10% of these have “significant” disabilities
that impact their participation in normal
activities of daily life.
Overview of Disabilities
Characteristics of Disability
Congenital OR Adventitious
Hidden OR Overt
Chronic OR Temporary
Progressive & Degenerative OR Static
May have episodes of presence OR remission.
Overview of Disabilities
Mobility Impairment
Social (Personality or Autism Spectrum)
Psychiatric (Bio-Medical, thought disorders)
Medical such as Neurological, Endocrine etc.
Overview of Disabilities
• Having a condition in one category does
not mean the person has a disability in
another category
• One MAY have conditions from several
categories or within a category
• Each individual may express the
symptoms of the disabilities differently
Asking the Right Questions
• In our desire to do a “good job” , it is of
critical importance to recognize when we
are entering an area that is outside our
knowledge and/or skill or expertise.
Asking the Right Questions
• Having the personal and professional
integrity to recognize when additional
resources are needed, in the form of
information or professional consultation
can assure an excellent effort was made
EVEN THOUGH the outcome may not be
what one would have wished.
To summarize
• Those beliefs and feelings about
individuals with disabilities should be
cleared of old negative cobwebs and
replaced with positive feelings and an
open mind about the individual’s abilities,
hopes, dreams, hobbies, skills, attitudes
and daily life.
• With our understanding that the biggest
negative in working with children and
adults with disabilities is our culture’s
negative attitude, your skill in
demonstrating CREDO throughout your
contact with crime victims with disabilities
supersedes any knowledge gap that may
• Your knowledge that there are several
categories of disability,
• That a disability may express differently in
each individual and even sometimes
differently within the individual
• Helps to guide one in asking the questions
of those knowledgeable about the
disability AND how this affects the
• To be prepared for proceeding with
managing the case.
• Learning more about myths and
• Learning more about disabilities
• Finding “people” resources to be on your
team or to be available for consultation
when needed
Thank You
We will take your questions now.
We will be sending an evaluation to you to
complete 5 minutes before the end of the
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Making a Difference - Disability and Abuse Project