How to Speak With Your Child About Their Disability

father and daughter on laundry room floor discussing her disability


About this Podcast Episode

On this episode, Angela and Kristin discuss talking to your child about their disability. They dive into the when, why, and how of navigating these important and ongoing conversations.

About the Hosts

Angela Nelson, Ed.D., BCBA, and Kristin Bandi, MA, BCBA, are Board Certified Behavior Analysts with expertise on human behavior and child development. They spend their days working with parents and caregivers of both typically developing children as well as children with learning, social, and behavioral challenges, or developmental disabilities. This podcast is brought to you by RethinkCare

If you need support as a parent or caregiver of a child, we encourage you to ask your Human Resources team if RethinkCare is a part of your employer-provided benefits. RethinkCare reaches millions of lives globally through partnerships with top organizations and Fortune 1,000 companies.


Welcome to episode 45 of Behaviorally Speaking, a podcast featuring board certified behavior analysts Angela Nelson and Kristin Bandi. On this episode, they talk all about the when, why, and how of talking with your child about their disability. And now, here are your hosts, Angela Nelson and Kristin Bandi.

Angie: Hello and welcome to episode 45 of Behaviorally Speaking. I’m one of your hosts Dr. Angela Nelson a board-certified behavior analyst and mother of 2.

Kristin: And I’m Kristin Bandi also a board certified behavior analyst and mother of 3. Hey Angie, I like the way you changed up the beginning I heard that the for the episode 45.

Angie: Yeah I know yeah.

Kristin: Just came out that way huh?

Angie: I know I know, I guess I’m getting tired of saying it the exact same way every time. I thought it’d spice it up a little bit.

Kristin: Right? Ah I think I’ve said before like do we just always keep count like I feel like we have to now right? Like what if we like on welcome to episode 362

Angie: I know yeah we have to.

Kristin: Do people do that right?

Angie: I got to keep it going I think I think so even they don’t that’s what we should do.

Kristin: Ah all right? That’s what we’re gonna do, okay all right?

Angie: Yeah plus I think saying forty fifth episode just sounds like tongue twister. So yeah.

Kristin: Yeah that’s a hard one tongue twist where to all tongue twister can even say tongue twister now I have to say it at the end so I’m probably going to mess it up.

Angie: Yeah well so um we are diving into a really interesting and I think important topic. Today we’re going to talk about how we approach talking to our kids about their disabilities. I know there’s a lot of literature and resources out there about talking to kids about disabilities in general, but we wanted to do a special episode dedicated to families who have children with disabilities, um because these questions come up quite often. You know how do I approach it, when do I approach it, what do I say, so we wanted to dive into this today.

Kristin: Um yeah yep exactly this is just such an important one and I think it’s going to be really good. So, before we dive into just, we kind of created a plan for how we can approach this but before we do that we wanted to mention that it could be really helpful for you to think have I processed this diagnosis or and how have I processed right? So remembering that the way that you feel about it or the way that you present the way you feel about it to your kids is going to be really impactful so it might be helpful to just take a moment and really think about how do I feel about this diagnosis right? and then from there. It’ll be even easier to come up with that plan, but I just wanted to mention that because it’s really important to start with that.

Angie: Yeah I love that you brought that up I think it’s a good reminder in general for parents to be self-reflective of their own reactions to things because our kids are watching us and it kind of influences and you know directly or indirectly influences their behavior or the way that they might feel about certain things. So yeah I think taking ah some private time to process, you know I will say think it’s important to mention too everybody goes through that process a little differently. There isn’t 1 kind of quote unquote “right” way to go through that early diagnosis stage. Some people are like okay who well now at least it explains a lot and they feel relieved other people, you know there’s just a myriad of feelings. So, I think it’s important to kind of get in touch with that and recognize that how you’re feeling it’s going to probably seep out into your behaviors. Your kids are going to see that?

Kristin: Yeah exactly.

When To Talk With Your Child About Their Disability

Angie: Alright well so let’s kind of dive in after you’ve gotten a chance to kind of process the diagnosis see how you feel about it. It’s important to plan out how you’re going to approach this conversation with your kids as we mentioned in the intro the when and that why and the how these are important things to think about ahead of time so there isn’t again there’s not 1 direct way to approach this it’s not kind of a linear thing.

When Your Child Starts Asking Questions

We’re going to talk a lot about that in a minute, but some sources say that a good place to start or a good indicator that it’s time to have these conversations is when your child starts asking questions about it. You know, they want to know they’re curious maybe somebody else said something or maybe they’re starting to have some self-awareness and realize that maybe they’re doing things differently than other kids or they can’t do the same things that their peers are doing so you want to think about the timing. Also, other kids might start to ask questions of them, they might start noticing. Obviously if your child has a physical disability that might be more apparent earlier on in life

Kristin: Ah yeah.

Angie: So those conversations might actually happen earlier as opposed to maybe ah a developmental disability that you know doesn’t manifest as much physically. Um so that is something to also consider kids might bring it up before you were ready.

How to Talk With Your Child About Their Disability

Angie: Um also how to bring it up. 1 thing that we found to be pretty consistent in the literature is it’s not a one and done. It’s not a 1-time conversation. Having a conversation when your child is 7 is going to look very different and maybe more basic and matter of fact than when your child’s 17.

Kristin: Yeah.

Angie: So, it’s definitely ah an ongoing conversation.

Have a Plan

Angie: Um I think it’s just you know the takeaway for this one is you should probably think about a plan for yourself because this may come up before you’re ready. What if you know we were talking about this the other day this came up I think with one of our clients the kid just sprang it on the parent “hey Mom am I autistic?”

Kristin: Right yeah.

Angie: And if you get that question before you’re ready, again kind of going back to your earlier point Kristin too if you’re like “oh, uh” that’s send a message to your child like oh did I ask something wrong something that you know like why did that startle you so you should be prepared with the plan.

Kristin: Or if you just or if you just like kind of push away and try to redirect right? Like I think that’s equally problematic right? If you’re just like “oh we’ll talk about later” you know like then it’s like “wait, what, oh” you know? So, I feel like that you know that could also cause some difficulties there.

Angie: Yeah, I’m thinking that this is akin to the puberty discussions we are going to be talking about.

Kristin: Oh, that’s for next month yeah.

Angie: It’s the same sort of thing like you should be prepared because you never know when those questions are going to pop up. So yeah have a plan.

Ask Your Child What They Know About the Disability

Kristin: Yeah exactly well along those lines I think it could be helpful that I get this question a lot with parents. And the first thing that I usually recommend is if your child comes to you, let’s say they do come to you in the car on the way to soccer practice and they say “am I autistic?” your first question could be “well, what do you know about autism?” right? Because I think that is that’s a really good way to get into their minds a bit. Um I have a client I’ve been working with very similar situation, and she did all the things right? Everything we’re talking about today and she had a conversation with her child and her child said “No, I don’t see it I’m not autistic.” And was like I don’t know I really don’t see it and then she was like “well let’s talk about that, what do you know about Autism?” and he kind of described a lot of behaviors that he was not engaging in right and so he was like ”I’m not autistic” but it was, so the mom was kind of like “now what do I do” She came to me you know with that story right?

Angie: Yeah.

Have Statements Ready

Kristin: But I think it could be so helpful to kind of set yourself up for success and kind of push it back on them “well what do you know?” um could be so good and then from there I as we were looking up this topic there can be various statements that you could make and you could have ready to go if your child is asking questions or if they’re making statements about themselves right? So sometimes kids might say I’m stupid right? And then we’re like oh wait hold on like where’s that coming from and as you mentioned right? like that’s when oh maybe we need to start opening the door to these conversations. But also, we could have a way to respond to that that might be better right? And so, some examples could be when you’re talking to your child about it you might be able to say something like “you think differently” right? That’s not good, that’s not bad, you think differently. Or another one could be “your challenges don’t define” you everyone has strengths, everyone has challenges. That’s okay another one could be “a disability is a difference that makes it harder for others to do something that others may be able to do easily” so again it’s a difference but it doesn’t mean it’s good or bad right? So it’s just about opening the door for that conversation I think my favorite though of all of these and could be super applicable and in all cases is to say to your child “I know you’re trying hard” right because we know and you and I have worked so much with families who have children who are diagnosed with ADHD, tend to get corrected a lot right? and they could be trying really hard and they’re still corrected and so I think it’s really helpful to call that out like I know you’re trying really hard, here’s how your brain might work a little differently, let’s do something about that right? Let’s come up with a plan come up with strategies.

Angie: Yeah, I love that.

Kristin: Yeah and you already mentioned this. But I think it’s very important to think about ways to keep it age-appropriate right? So, we want to kind of talk to their level like you said like you might say something to a 7-year-old definitely than you’re going to say to a 17-year-old for all. Um and then the last one on that is and I mentioned it a little bit before, but I think with these conversations these are hard conversations to have with kids and as parents we want to kind of shy away right? So, we’re like “here’s information bye” right and that’s that instead I would encourage you to ask, to encourage them to ask questions right? So “now we know a little bit more about Autism, what questions do you have for me?” right? So, I think that instead of shying away from that really encourage that question asking can be really helpful.

Angie: Yeah I love, that establish yourself as a trusted partner in this you know I’m going to give you the facts I’m going to navigate this with you. You know and I’m here if you know have questions or concerns. Yeah absolutely all right?

Identify What to Say to Others While Empowering Your Child

Angie: Alright so moving on to the next tip here. It is important, this kind of goes along with having a plan. It’s important to identify what to say to others and it’s also important to think about empowering your child because this is not your disability or could be, you know you could share that disability some are, you know run in families. But this is their disability, this is their choice. You can guide them, you can coach them, you can give them some ideas, but ultimately it’s their choice to decide who they want to share it with and what they want to say. Um it might be helpful to help them kind of create a 1 liner or a short elevator pitch um or even something that can help, ah you know shut down any bullying let’s say if you’re finding that bullying is coming up, but sometimes kind of just a quick matter of fact yep yeah I have autism or yeah I have ADHD, that just you know impacts away I think or so I think differently than you um kind of saying it matter. Of fact sometimes helps to you know bubble down any sort of you know things that might come afterwards.

Kristin: Mhm.

Angie: Um it’s helpful to practice and roleplay this with your child. You can roleplay it in different ways and different scenarios whether it’s just a curious peer because kids are curious. Um and especially if your child is behaving and communicating and socializing differently than let’s say the general you know standardized norms of the classroom um you’re going to get questions about it from kids, and not necessarily bullying but that could come too. So, to practice, get ahead of this, be proactive, you know help your child brainstorm something that they’re feeling, they’re feeling comfortable saying, is going to be really I think empowering process for them.

Kristin: Yeah you know 2 things on this that I was thinking as you were going along when we you know when we say like identify what to say to others you were referring to what does what the child could say to others right when it comes to them.

Angie: Yes.

Kristin: But another question I get asked a lot and we didn’t talk about this is sometimes parents will say what do I say to my neighbor or to my so in-law my mother-in-law right? Who’s judging me for my child’s behavior and I don’t know what to say and I actually get that one a lot um and then I think you know related to that is we have to be careful about what we say in front of our children and even and I have this conversation a lot especially kids with Autism who are impacted by their disability quite a bit. It doesn’t mean that they’re not hearing you right? And sometimes we might say something or a parent might say you know “oh you know he’s not talking yet” or something and that one’s not bad, but given like whatever they might say right could be something that is perceived and your child hears that and then that becomes part of their identity so you know was a loaded way of saying that, but I think it’s being careful what we say as parents to other people about our kids could be important too.

Angie: Yeah a hundred percent yeah.

Kristin: Yeah the other thing I was going to say on that is when kids get older and you had mentioned it right like when they get older they could I they could decide who they want to tell I have a client that I’m working with and he recently got diagnosed with ADHD, Mom was talking to him about it. They had a really good conversation and he said, “do I have to tell my teacher?” and she said “no, I mean not unless you feel like you want to give this information to your teacher. You think it’ll be beneficial. Let’s talk about some of the pros and cons to telling your teacher right?”

Angie: Um yeah.

Kristin: Um but again ultimately like he was afraid that if his teacher knew, she was going to do things differently in class, that was then going to result in his peers knowing, and we get that a lot with older kids, so these are things that we need to consider.

Angie: Yeah it’s a good point too. It’s good to think long term I mean you and I do workplace consult neurodiversity consultations and I mean you probably see this every day like I do people will say “no I haven’t disclosed to my employer that I have a disability, um do I need to or do you think I should, excuse me, should?” some people you know find that they kind of tips the scale into my productivity, my performance is kind of slipping maybe I should be open about this so I can guess the supports that I need other people say you know what I’m doing fine I kind of don’t want to open that Pandora’s box because, let’s be honest, we’re living in a more inclusive society than ever before but stigma and bias explicit and in place implicit bias still exist.

Kristin: Um right.

Angie: So, um it is tricky and that’s why I do think it’s important to have these open discussions. You know it’s harder when your child is 6 years old but obviously when your child gets older you can kind of go through these pros and cons with them and help them make the best decision for them.

Kristin: Yeah exactly it’s so important think long term. Um we always tell parents; I always tell parents like don’t jump so far ahead right? Like live in the now think in the now right? But in this case I would say yeah sometimes we do have to think long term.

How To Tell My Child They Have a Disability, Without Them Using It as a Crutch?

Kristin: Um so speaking of that that actually brings us into the next one that I get asked constantly um with some diagnoses more than the other, but a lot of parents will say to me. Well, you know I’m worried that if I tell my child they have this disability. They’re going to then use that right as a crutch or as an excuse and um you know it’s some way kind of allowing them to engage in certain behaviors because of the diagnosis and we see this at least I’ve seen this more often in kids with ADHD um where parents are like well I don’t know that I want to I don’t I don’t know I don’t know if I want to tell them right? And an answer that I usually give is when you’re presenting this to your child There is a way that you can present it so that they’re not going to use it as an excuse and so essentially you want to teach that ADHD can be an explanation for the behavior, but not an excuse right? So, an example might be teaching your child that the behavior happened, let’s say they break their pencil during math right? So, we’re saying this behavior happened as a result of ADHD and I know it was wrong I know I made a mistake and I’m still learning right? I can come, I can problem solve, I can fix this. So that’s one mindset. Another mindset might be oh I broke this pencil during math because I have ADHD, I can’t control my impulses I can’t help it oh well I’m just going to keep breaking pencils right? So now it’s becoming, well it’s an excuse and it’s not looking at things from this problem solving mindset so I think if we can teach our kids if we start with that explanation mindset then they will be more likely to approach their symptoms that way so they might say yeah I do have ADHD I sometimes have trouble focusing on my work, I need this tool to help me, that’s okay. Right instead of well I guess I just can’t do my work today because I can’t focus right? So, I think it’s just thinking about the way that we are presenting it and then hopefully that in turn will result in them looking at things a little differently too.

Angie: It’s almost it sounds like what you’re saying is your disability can influence your behavior, or make it a little bit harder for you to, in this case, control your impulses you’re working on it therefore you need to maybe use different strategies to kind of help you with that ah response inhibition to kind of ah work with your ADHD, it’s not an excuse, yeah.

Kristin: Yeah exactly. Yeah so hopefully that will help parents understand that you know I think by telling kids that they have ADHD can be really beneficial because. Um the other side of things when we don’t tell kids about it then like you had mentioned then they’re like well “What’s wrong with me? Why am I stupid? Why am I not raising my hand as fast as everybody else? I know that answer why can’t I do it too?” right? So now it’s like no there’s an explanation for some of those behaviors and that’s okay and let’s work together to come up with ways to make it a little easier for you with some of these you know challenging things that you’re having.

Angie: Yeah absolutely yeah it’s coming from a strength-based approach, and we didn’t really touch on this but certainly there’s a lot of literature pointing to the links between mental health challenges and disabilities like ADHD and autism.

Kristin: Oh yeah.

Angie: You talked about it before we and we’ve mentioned this on the podcast kids with ADHD see ah you know a higher proportion of corrective or punitive statements to ah ratio of punitive statements to positive statements compared to a neurotypical kid. Um and that can really impact self-esteem. So, um yeah so keep that in mind if you’re withholding this information for a long time and they’re thinking like “Why am I stupid? Why am I, why can’t I do this? I’m just, maybe I’m just not cut out for school, or I can’t get it.”

Kristin: Right?

Angie: Um you know there are mental health implications here.

Kristin: Yeah totally.

Know the Difference Between the Disability and Age-Appropriate Behavior

Angie: Yeah, well similar to what you were talking about the concerns using the disability as a crutch draw as an excuse what goes into that, and I think what can support parents, is knowing the difference between the disability and age appropriate behavior I was just I was just doing a podcast yesterday actually with ah but 1 of my mentors and um she has a podcast called Think Differently with Dr. Teresa Haskins and ah we were talking a little bit about ah you know all three year olds are going to tantrum sometimes you know, we can’t hold it against them can we? Can we really blame autism necessarily right? But I think it’s important for parents to empower themselves with knowledge around what is age-appropriate behavior right? So, it is to be expected that when your child doesn’t have that language that they need to communicate that they’re going to get frustrated right? So, you’ve got a 2-year-old or even a 3-year-old but as time goes on we can start to observe our kids and see other friends as well. This was hard during the pandemic I will say because we had fewer opportunities for that point of reference, um because we were around other kids, but observe other kids, see what’s going on, read. There are you know American Academy of Pediatrics,, some of our favorite sites. They have lots of good information in terms of developmental sequences, um so you know keep that in mind. So, if your child is let’s say not talking at 3 and at 4 years old, that might be an indicator that you want to investigate something further. Um so you know I do think it is important to kind of understand that hey maybe my child’s behavior is more attributed to their disability versus their age when you’re um you know comparing to other kids and you know the typical developmental sequence.

Kristin: Yeah and I will say this is a hard 1 sometimes like sometimes it is a little bit of a puzzle to know wait a second like is this rigidity because let’s say your child does have an autism diagnosis right? Is this rigidity because of autism or is this rigidity because they’re 4 right? and they just want things to be their way because a lot of four-year-olds are like that. Um mine now she’s 5 but she’s still like that.

Angie: Yeah.

Kristin: It’s definitely a 4 year old thing I could tell you, but I feel like that can sometimes be very tricky for parents and I think the reason that it’s so tricky is because, and this is what I hear from parents often, is that they will say well you know I don’t want to correct that behavior or I don’t want to punish that behavior If they’re not in control right? If it’s because of their disability then now how do we parent it? And so, I think it does make it really tricky, but I think you’ve nailed it in that the more information you have the better decision. You’re going to make so the more I know about Autism the more I’m going to be able to decipher between autism and age-appropriate behavior like tantrums for example.

Angie: Yeah but I think you do make a good point like there is no easy answer to this one.

Kristin: Right, yeah.

Angie: Sometimes it’s hard to disentangle the 2 um you know and another thing to think about is observe your child if they do have the skills in a certain environment. let’s say the teacher says, “oh yeah they’re really well, they, they’re doing great with their impulse control”, but then you see it kind of spin out of control at home, that’s also something to consider. It’s like do they have the skills at all and if they do, but they’re just not practicing them at home, it’s probably more you know related to other things as opposed to you they literally don’t have the skills, so you know

Kristin: Um that’s a great point.

Angie: We’re yeah so you know keep that in mind is it a skill deficit I mean disability or not if you can identify that there’s a challenge. There’s definitely opportunities to support your child’s learning and skill development over time. So, you know there, there’s always a good um kind of solution there. Um we don’t want to just say well sometimes we don’t know what we got we got to just deal with that that you know you can look at it from like a skills perspective.

Find Healthy Role Models with Similar Experiences for Your Kids

Kristin: Um yeah exactly? Okay so another 1 kind of moving along the path here I think another thing that you can do as parents for your child right? So obviously we want to get to know the disability. We want to get we want to start talking to our kids about it but another really helpful strategy is to find healthy role models for your kids who have similar experiences and so. There’s obviously there there’s many different disabilities right? And some are more, more common than others or more prevalent than others right? Um but if you can find somebody that has experienced that, kind of pull them in and allow them to be that role model. I see this coming up more often with our teenagers, right? and so it’s like well look at you know look at this person. They you know they have this you know a very similar experience to you guys can relate to 1 another in so many ways and they’ve really overcome some of these challenges. Let’s look at how they did that right? Like how inspiring and so I think it’s you know obviously it’s going to be dependent on the disability and all that but um I think that can be really helpful just to help your child understand it a little bit better and feel like they’re not alone. Yeah.

Angie: Yeah hundred percent we’ve seen people, adults come out you know in the workplace as well and when you’ve got leaders and you know it helps to kind of destigmatize and normalize as well when you’ve got successful people that are coming out and saying hey I’ve been successful by the way I also have a disability um encouraging.

Kristin: Um right? Yeah absolutely yeah.

Find a Support Network of Other Parents With Similar Experiences

Angie: Yeah all right? So, kind of getting down to the last couple here. It’s important for parents to find a network of other parents who have similar experiences, um to find your tribe as we say, share information, share resources. You can also read articles or these days there’s so many videos out there, of adults who have a disability and have and talk about what they wish their parent knew what they wanted their parent to say or to do when they’re kids. There’s a good article. Um I really like the article called The Mighty,

Kristin: Yeah I’ve seen that.

Angie: Yeah and they see things like you know don’t decide. Ah there is ah an article about or from a written different snippets of people with disabilities and they were asked “what do you wish your parents knew back then?” you know so things like you know “don’t decide your, I wish that you didn’t decide my limits for me.”

Kristin: Ah wow, how powerful, my goodness.

Angie: Um yeah I know I know or “you know I was strong enough to keep up with the other kids, I’m not lazy.” I, you know those sorts of things-

Kristin: Oh my gosh those are gonna make me cry, hold on this is taking a turn.

Angie: Yeah I know I know I know? Yeah so there’s a lot of a lot of stuff on here.

Kristin: Oh man. Yeah wow.

Angie: Um so yeah so it’s you know I think this goes back to this is not, you’re a part of this journey but this is also your child’s experience and it’s important for you to do your information or you know collect information and do your homework so that you can empower your child. Um and you can do that by listening to adults that have gone through this journey before your child.

Kristin: Yeah and I think related to this. We talked about this during I think it was maybe the ah maybe one of our, maybe our parent guilt 1, um I think and ah very related is finding like-minded parents, parents who have similar experience because it can be really hard if you are surrounded by parents who don’t experience what you’re experiencing right? And so, then you’re kind of in that bucket of man, wow they can all or you’re kind of in the mindset like wow all these kids are doing it mine’s not I’m excluded. How come, you know you kind of get into these like negative thoughts right? Because all the other kids are doing this, and you can’t do this, and it can become challenging right? Like let’s say your child just doesn’t do well at birthday parties and all the parents are talking about the birthday party, right? And you weren’t there, and I feel like over time that can be really hard on a parent. So, I often tell parents find those that are that are experiencing this too for you so that you can um not only to get information but to feel like you know I’m not alone again. Kind of like find things for the kids and find things for yourself.

Angie: Yeah absolutely that could also change your mind set on your child’s disability too right? Like you can have a more positive approach that could also lead to you being generally more positive around your child as well. Um and that can change the whole dynamic so it’s not this, oh my gosh it’s this big barrier we have to overcome. It’s hey this is you know we’re cruising through life; this is our current situation and we’ve got a lot of other friends that are cruising through life and in a similar way. We’re going to share ideas; we’re going to have a good time so yeah it ah your support system can be really impactful.

Help Your Child Find Their Disability Culture

Kristin: Yeah exactly so ah just a couple more we gathered here so related to finding healthy role models for your kids those are going to be healthy role models, but you might. Not necessarily come into contact with them right? We might, they might be on the internet right? Out there in the in the Cloud somewhere, but in this case we’re talking about helping your child find their culture right? So let’s actually introduce them to like-minded people so they don’t feel alone and really allowing them to kind of come together with somebody where it might not naturally be there and this could be for certain cultures that maybe aren’t maybe there’s no kids in their class who are blind for example right, or hearing impaired right? And they’re the only one and they have no one in their class or their peer group or even their social groups to relate to so our job as parents could be to help find those people for them.

Angie: Yeah absolutely I think this is a newer concept that’s coming up with the disability space kind of this concept of disability culture or naming it as such. Um I told you Chris and I read a book not that long ago called True Biz by Sara Nović, and it’s about deaf culture and it was really fascinating to me. It definitely opened my eyes to a culture that I was not aware of at all. Um True Biz in deaf culture is kind of ah turn that means like real talk or seriously um and it was just so fascinating at this world that I am not a part of that I was really excited to kind of learn more about. So, I know that the Autism community has a really strong kind of culture as well. In terms of language and they’ve got a good strong self-advocacy network and so on. So, um yeah I think that’s it goes parallel to everything that we’re saying like you know elevate this empower your child get them connected to their culture, so they can be around people, um and you know see this in a positive way.

Kristin: Um yeah exactly. I don’t know if you do you watch Big Brother.

Angie: Oh yeah I do

Kristin: Oh, you do?

Angie: I do like Big Brother.

Kristin: We’ve never had this conversation, okay now we need to talk about it every summer um okay so but this most recent Big Brother they had one of the guys on there was deaf and he spoke about it a lot and he was you know he was talking, there was a lot of the behind the scenes stuff that came out like a lot of the ways that they helped him feel included and there was even some if you watched it right, there were even some times where things got misinterpreted, um behind his back a bit, but people were like very, most people were quite sensitive to it and they made sure to you know, really make sure that he was included and um I just I thought that that was really inspiring for people. And there’s a lot of shows like that where like Survivor for example or like all of these kind of reality shows where they have somebody who you know has a disability and they’re embracing it and I just love to see it.

Angie: Yeah it was okay, so we need to talk about our CBS, CBS of viewing viewership um offline here.

Kristin: Um yeah apparently.

Angie: I guess Survivor is starting again soon my husband just ah said that either day.

Kristin: Yes yeah.

Angie: Ah yeah no the thing that that was really cool is that the producers of Big Brother they would use cue cards to write out what the directions were of the challenges. So, if you’re familiar with Big Brother a lot of times they’ll have someone say on the loudspeaker what they need to do and so this particular person wasn’t able to hear that they weren’t able to see the person’s lips moving because it was just on a speaker. So, they had it written out so you can hear everybody else kind of looking up listening and this particular contestant you know they had it written out for him, so they had a very simple accommodation a visual ah visual for him. Um so yeah I thought I thought it was great I thought it was cool and didn’t he either won or he went to like the very end he was the in the top 3?

Kristin: Yeah he was definitely in the top 3 and now I’m thinking like did he win? I think he, I can’t, and I like really embrace the show, so I’m like how am I ever going to remember too many things in life. But I feel like did he win America’s favorite? No Cameron, Cameron won America’s favorite I remember that? Anyway, for those of you, so if don’t watch it, go watch it, it’s pretty good. I also think that I read somewhere, and he might have done an interview or something, I think he could hear ah a little bit which was a little bit more helpful for some of those more auditory heavy challenges but they did everything they could to make sure that he had an equal opportunity which was really awesome. Yeah great.


Angie: Yeah all right? So, we’re getting down to the last one here. This is also a term that maybe some folks haven’t heard but as your kids grow its ah really important to educate yourself on this but it’s the concept of self-determination. So, what that means is, or it refers to both the right and the capacity for individuals to exert control over their lives and kind of direct their lives. So this is a little bit different than the words, kind of independence or being self-sufficient, it’s really about kind of quote unquote “controlling your own destiny” and there’s a really wonderful organization PACER, so it’s, if you go to they have a lot of good information on there especially around the areas of transitions to adulthood. So, a lot of different topics there so independent living um employment and so on so that’s a good one. Um but as our kids are younger, it’s important to think about allowing your child to make decisions, give them opportunities to have choices, practice self-advocacy. Um and I know we might have an inclination to jump in there and protect our kids and save our kids, but at the end of the day you’ve got to think long term if you’re constantly protecting and cocooning your child so much they’re not going to have that practice those skills to be able to kind of practice the self-determination so giving them early opportunities to make choices decision. You know do some decision making, problem solving and with you kind of coaching and then fading back is going to be important because you kind of have to learn from consequences. It’s just overall part of this process.

Teach Your Child It’s OK to Ask For Help

Kristin: Um yeah exactly I think it’s important to teach kids that you know failure is part of the process right? We’re going to make mistakes. There’s going to be consequences. We might not do things the way that we intended to um, or I think more importantly sometimes you’re not going to understand. I had um it’s this is kind of interesting, um my kids have baseball practice on Monday nights and um I happen to be walking by my son’s practice and 1 of the coaches was throwing the ball with one of the kids and the kid kept doing it wrong I don’t know what it was because I didn’t hear the whole thing and he just kept doing it wrong and the coach said “hey buddy listen if you don’t understand what I asked you to do I need you to say I don’t understand tell me again right?” He goes “because you just, you still did it wrong because I know you didn’t hear me” so like either he just wasn’t throwing the ball to whoever he was supposed to or he was doing something wrong right and I kind of walked by as I heard that and I was thinking what a great coach right? like he didn’t he didn’t say like “why do you keep messing up man?” you know like he just kept saying like he clearly noticed this child needed to advocate for himself and so he just put it into practice right? He said, “hey if you don’t understand what I ask you to do just ask me right?” And I thought that was really awesome. Um but I think as parents we could do the same thing right? Um you know to teach our kids “hey if you didn’t understand something that I said, or your teacher said it’s okay to ask for help” I Think that’s so important.

Angie: Yeah and pair it with “you’re not going to get in trouble, I’m not going to be mad at you.”

Kristin: Um right totally.

Angie: “If you advocate for yourself I’m going to say hey thanks for clarifying” that is a great tool to take it into the workplace as well. I was just talking to someone yesterday about this exact same thing he has a direct report, and they just say yep okay got it and then output is usually not accurate. So we talked about ways to create that kind of psychological safety like make sure your environment is such that it’s okay people aren’t going to be criticized or punished for saying “I don’t understand” and you know you could even say like can you repeat back to me what the plan is you know if the and this might be easier when your kid is younger versus in the workplace, but that is also a strategy too like “okay can you tell me what, what the plan is, what are we going to do?” Um and create that that kind of openness. But yeah I do think that’s a good connection point back to self-determination really giving people that you know that control over their lives making sure they understand making sure they have everything that they need to pursue what they want?

Kristin: Yeah exactly all right? Well, we did it, so good. All right well thanks for joining us on our forty fifth episode of Behaviorally Speaking. As Angie mentioned earlier on our next episode we will be discussing puberty so until then don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform, so you never miss an episode.

You’ve been listening to Behaviorally Speaking, with Angela Nelson and Kristin Bandi, brought to you by RethinkCare. Find out more at You can find past podcast episodes under the Resources tab. We also invite you to subscribe, follow, like, and leave us feedback wherever you listen to podcasts. Your feedback helps us prepare topics and content for future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.

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