Enabling Assertiveness

Updated: May 12, 2021

In my many roles working with disabled young people, I’ve often been asked, ‘What’s the most important thing to teach them’. Managing money? Good manners? How to use public transport? After a lot of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that, where possible it’s the ability to give a firm and assertive ‘no’ and to be able to express a preference.

Many, many years ago, I watched a young PA get impatient with a disabled young man he was caring for, who was taking time to chose a snack from a vending machine. Nothing abusive, just a tired PA at the end of a long shift – but it made me think.

I always try to enable the disabled young people I work with if they are angry, or come to me with a problem. ‘How can you solve this? Is there someone you can speak to? What would you prefer to do? Next time, is there something different you can do? Could we write a letter together?’. Over and over again, show them that assertiveness is ok, that saying ‘no’ is legitimate, and when they come to you angry – listen! How much more confident are we as parents, when our young people know that their opinion counts, are able to stand up for themselves, and are known to do so!

At ICD we think this is key to best outcomes, and personalised care - what do you think, and what are your experiences?

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