16 informonline.org.au Your health If you can’t say something nice… Dealing with stigma is part of everyday life for those living with a disability, and for those that don’t have the right coping strategies it can take a toll on your emotional health. Here are some ways in which you can deal with unwanted advice and opinions. Speak up Stigma can often mean that an individual is thought of as being ‘other’ and there is often a separation created between the different parties. It is important to be able to speak up and inform people that you are equal and deserve to be treated as so. Educate A lot of people may be creating these differences because they genuinely don’t understand someone’s disability, so informing and educating these family members is key. This will also give you the opportunity to correct inaccurate statements and misunderstandings. Participate People may not understand your capabilities so leaving you out of an activity may seem like their only option. In this case, speak up and let them know that you would like to participate and suggest a few activities that you may be able to do.
Your health informonline.org.au 17 The anticipation of a new year can sometimes bring about feelings of stress and anxiety for some children and adults with disabilities. Connect with your support system If all else fails, remove yourself from the negative situation and surround yourself with people who are respectful, accepting and understand your disability. Be prepared Preparing yourself for an uncomfortable situation may be a useful strategy for being able to take care of yourself on the day if things go south. Having already developed strategies for situations that may upset you or make you angry may be helpful in being able to cope with the circumstance. For example, removing yourself from the situation, breathing exercises, going outside for some fresh air, sitting in another room and doing an activity that relaxes you such as reading. Realistic thinking Remember that thoughts and opinions are not facts! It is critical to remember that you are your own expert, you know your ability and being able to identify the unrealistic thoughts and opinions of yourself and others is a necessity. Tips for family and friends While the new year can bring times of joy and excitement to some of us, it can sometimes bring about feelings of stress and anxiety for some children and adults with disabilities. Here are a few tips and ideas for family members and friends to try, to help create a positive environment for those living with a disability. Inform and educate – who needs to know? There are many situations where extended family gets together and some family members or friends may not completely understand an individual’s disability or know how to act when around them. It might be useful for family members or the individual with the disability to send out a quick update to other family members before any big events, and this update may include: • Achievements and events that have happened during the year • Activities and topics that the individual may enjoy discussing • Activities and topics that people should avoid • Things that the individual may enjoy or find difficult and challenging during the festive celebrations A designated safe area might also be helpful, if an individual starts to become overwhelmed and requires a quiet and designated space where they can retreat. This area can be a calming place where they can complete an activity or task that they may prefer (e.g. reading their favorite book or listening to music).