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Tips for People with Cognitive Disabilities

 General Tips

  1. Always ask the person how you can best assist.
  2. Ask/Look for:
  • An identification bracelet with special health information.
  • Emergency contact information to reach the person’s family.
  • Essential equipment and supplies (for example: wheelchair, walker, oxygen, batteries, communication devices [head pointers, alphabet boards, speech synthesizers, etc.]). Medication.
  • Mobility aids (for example, wheelchair, cane, walker or an assistance or service animal).
  • Special health instructions (for example, allergies).
  • Special communication information (for example, the person might say [s]he is stressed, look confused, withdraw, start rubbing their hands together).
  • Conditions that people might misinterpret (for example, someone might mistake Cerebral Palsy for drunkenness).
  • Try to include the person in conversations with other people; don’t talk about a person in front of that person.
  • If the person does not use words to speak, look for gestures or other behaviors that communicate what that person wants to express.
  • Don’t assume that people do not understand just because they don’t use words to communicate.

 Tips for People with Cognitive Disabilities 

(A) Say:
  • My name is... I'm here to help you, not hurt you.
  • I am a .... (name your job).
  • I am here because .... (explain the situation).
  • I look different from my picture on my badge because ..... (for example, if you are wearing protective equipment).
(B) Show:
  • Your picture identification badge (as you say that above).
  • That you are calm and competent.
(C) Give:
  • Extra time for the person to process what you are saying and to respond.
  • Respect for the dignity of the person as an equal and as an adult (example: speak directly to the person).
  • An arm to the person to hold as they walk. If needed, offer your elbow for balance.
  • If possible, quiet time to rest (as possible, to lower stress and fatigue).
(D) Use:
  • Short Sentences.
  • Simple, concrete words.
  • Accurate, honest information.
  • Pictures and objects to illustrate your words. Point to your ID picture as you say who you are, point to any protective equipment as you speak about it.
(E) Predict:
  • What will happen (simply and concretely)?
  • When events will happen (tie to common events in addition to numbers and time, for example, "By lunch time...." "By the time the sun goes down....".
  • How long this will last - when things will return to normal (if you know).
  • When the person can contact or rejoin loved ones (for example: calls to family, re-uniting pets).
(F) Ask for/Look for:
  • An identification bracelet with special health information.
  • Essential equipment and supplies (for example: wheelchair, walker, oxygen, batteries, communication devices [head pointers, alphabet boards, speech synthesizers, etc.]).
  • Medication.
  • Mobility aids (for example, assistance or service animals).
  • Refer to the section on People with Service Animals.
  • Special health instructions (for example: allergies).
  • Special communication information (for example, is the person using sign language) such as contact information.
  • Signs of stress and/or confusion (for example, the person might say he or she is stressed, look confused, withdraw or start rubbing their hands together).
  • Conditions that people might misinterpret (for example, someone might mistake Cerebral Palsy for drunkenness.
(G) Repeat:
  • Reassurances (for example, "You may feel afraid. That's OK. We're safe now.").
  • Encouragement (for example, "Thanks for moving fast, you are doing great. Other people can look at you and know what to do.").
  • Frequent updates on what's happening and what will happen next. Refer to what you predicted will happen (for example: "Just like I said before, we're getting into my car now. We'll go to .... now.").
(H) Reduce:
  • Distractions. For example: lower volume of radio, use flashing lights on vehicle only when necessary.
(I) Explain:
  • Any written material (including signs) in everyday language.
  • Public address system announcements in simple language.
(J) Share:
  • The information you've learned about the person with other workers who'll be assisting the person.

 Resources 

Contact DDCO
2401 NW 23rd St, Ste. 74
Oklahoma City, OK 73107

405-521-4984
Fax: 405-521-4910
Email: staff@okddc.ok.gov

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