Quote of The Day


"If you want to see competence, it helps if you look for it"

Douglas Biklen

To presume competence is very important considering the work that many ABA professionals do with highly vulnerable populations who may be unable to reliably communicate/self-advocate and could also have high support needs on a daily basis.

It is important to always place a high value on dignity and self-determination, to whatever degree is possible for the individual (your child, student, client, etc.). What do YOU want to eat (and absolutely NOT want to eat)? Where do YOU want to sit? Is that shirt comfortable? Do you like this school? Are you feeling okay? Are you hungry...tired....ill...bored....sad?  

It may not be possible for the individual to answer questions like this, but to presume competence is to assume that the individual absolutely has an opinion on these matters, even if they are currently unable to communicate that opinion to anyone. Make sense?

Here are more tips on how professionals/teachers/caregivers can work toward intentionally presuming competence:

- Always ask before giving assistance and let the person tell you what you may do to be helpful (for those who cannot tell you, read body language/cues for removal of assent).

- Treat adults as adults. Use a typical tone of voice, just as if speaking with a friend or co-worker. 

- In general do not assume a person can’t read, but also don’t assume they can.

- Speak to the person directly, not the support person, parent, or companion. 

- Don’t assume a person who has limited or no speech cannot understand what is being said around them, or to them. People usually understand more than they can express. 

- Never pretend you understand what is said when you don’t! Ask the person to tell you again what was said. Repeat what you understand. 

- Do not try to finish a person’s sentence, or cut them off. Listen until they have finished talking, even if you think you know what they might say. 

- You might not be able to see someone’s disability. All disabilities are not visible. There are many disabilities that are hidden within a person. 

- Avoid using stereotypes in your thinking. We all have different personalities and our own ways of doing things. To find out what a person prefers, ask them directly (when possible). 

- Offer compliments but avoid giving a lot of praise when people with disabilities do typical things. 

- Avoid speaking for others. Encourage a person to speak on their own behalf. If you must restate something, be careful not to change the original meaning.

- Be mindful of your body language, tone of voice, and other gestures that may influence a person’s decision/desire to please those in authority. 

- A support person should be low-key, almost “invisible” to others. Don’t “over-support.” 

- Let a person make their own decisions. Don’t take over and make decisions for them. It can be difficult for some with disabilities to make quick decisions. Be patient and allow the person to take their time. 

- Focus on what a person CAN do, instead of hyperfocusing on deficits. 

- Find ways to include a person in a conversation. Do not talk about the person to others as if they’re not there/not in the room.

Link to Reference: Curriculum for Self-Advocates

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