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Working with Children and Young Adults - July 23rd 2015, 06:35 PM


I'm a psychology student and in a few months I'll be volunteering at a school for children and young adults with disabilities, mainly developmental disorders. I was hoping someone could help me with a few things.

I don't have any experience of working with people with developmental disorders, or even really people with a disability, and to be honest I'm a little nervous. Some of the children have severe speech impediments, is there a way to communicate that gets around this? I don't want them to think I'm being patronizing by using hand gestures, or asking them to repeat things. I struggle with anxiety so this part is especially worrying to me.

I'm just so worried about the whole thing What if I act wrong? Come off as patronizing or...I don't know.

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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 23rd 2015, 09:45 PM

I have a small amount of experience working with very young children with autism. When the children are really young the communication is actually less of an issue because you can talk to them the same as children without disabilities, although you may have to slow down, or adapt to communication techniques they use (for example picture cards or makaton).

With older children and young adults, it's best to treat them the same as everyone else. People can tell if you're acting 'above' them or treating them as younger than they are. But I'd recommend speaking to the teachers in charge first. They may be able to advise you on individual students' needs and abilities.

It's something that you'll find becomes more natural with time. I worked on a holiday camp for people with disabilities and at the beginning it was terrifying, but as you get to know people it becomes easier.

Good luck, I hope you have a good time.

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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 24th 2015, 08:58 PM

Thank you!

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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 24th 2015, 11:58 PM

My sister is mentally retarded and is almost 26. Sometimes you can understand her perfectly and other times you have to ask her to repeat herself. You say like "try it again" or "one more time" something like that and sometimes it takes more than twice and they get frustrated just like you will. You have to tell them that it's alright and for them to calm down and try one more time. Some people just can't understand some of them and when that happens I usually just nod my. Head and agree but this only happens with one special ed kids because he mumbles. If you need anymore advice just let me know. I've been around them my whole life plus I have learning disabilities myself and mental issues as well

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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 25th 2015, 02:07 AM

I think how you should go about communication depends on the individual you're working with. My brother has severe autism and I volunteered with his class, and I changed my pace to match each student that I worked with. Most of the kids there were nonverbal, but I'd still talk to them anyway. Some did talk, but couldn't hold much of a conversation. I agree with what was said above; treat them like you'd treat anyone else. And, you could also ask people involved and you might be able to learn by watching too. When you are able to communicate, you might be able to see the interests or talents of each individual and you could talk to them about that.

Knowing how kind you are, there's no way you could act wrong. I don't think anyone will think you're being patronizing or anything like that. I talk with hand movements a lot, regardless of who I'm talking to.

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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 25th 2015, 03:55 AM

Thanks so much guys, that really really helped. Less worried already haha

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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 26th 2015, 12:18 AM

I would get a feel for each individual person's needs and abilities and treat them accordingly in a non-patronizing way. If you have access to each individual's educational plan - that may help, but if not just treat them as people with a specific need. Like if someone was blind, you would accommodate that by not using any visual cues- but would otherwise treat them as a normal person. Its the same with people with developmental disabilities. You don't treat them as "special" -- but get a feel for what their needs are.For example, some students may have normal intelligence but are disabled in other ways- so you'd want treat them in a way that is accommodating to their disability without talking to them as if they were "slow" and couldn't reason as well as others their age.
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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 29th 2015, 03:41 PM

I agree with what has been mentioned thus far.
I have not worked with people that have developmental disabilities however I am blind and I used to go to school with people that were blind along with other disabilities. I also have a young cousin that has autism and a friend as well.
I believe the school you are going to work with/for will help you learn how to appropriately communicate with the students. Most schools that teach students with disabilities primarily have training for new employees or interns about how to interact with the students, what is appropriate discipline, how to administer it Etc.
The main thing is treat them like you would any other person you are getting to know at their age. I know from experience that is quite irksome to be treated as if I am deaf when I cannot see or as if I have severe mental deficits along with my blindness.
If the student has a hard time with speech they may use picture cards (that is what my young cousin is learning right now), if they have a hard time understanding what is spoken to them the first time than use repetition and if the student is difficult to understand ask them to repeat themselves and reassure them if they get frustrated that it is okay to repeat themselves and you are not irritated by it.
I hope all goes well for you in working with them. I have noticed through interacting with my friend that kids/peers with autism can really teach those of us without it a whole lot about many important values.
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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - July 29th 2015, 05:31 PM

The disability varies with each individual. Discuss the students with their teacher, and as you work with the students, you will learn how and on what level they work and communicate.
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Re: Working with Children and Young Adults - August 1st 2015, 11:19 PM

When I worked in a pre-school we had children who could not talk or had like very limited speech and instead of us like not talking to them - we had ways - we would say 'show me' and get the child to like basically show us or take us to what they wanted - we would also use sign language and picture aids such as happy, sad, hungry, tired. this worked well. but you'll find that the people working there will like introduce to the ways to best like help each child individually.

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