Using a Set Introduction
When clients come to you as an adult, they may have a long and mixed history that they carry regarding disability and disclosure. Speaking of when they were children in school, many people from communities explained that the system didn’t focus on or foster self-advocacy and empowerment among indigenous children and their families. Instead, there was a feeling of being disconnected from the diagnostic process and targeted with labels.
Using a set introduction makes sure that you never have to be uncomfortable to ask clients if they have a disability or not. By starting each new session with each new client using the same introduction, this allows the support professional to offer clients the chance to disclose a diagnosed disability status, a disability status from the past, or if they think or wonder if they may have a disability.
With this inclusive approach, you will be opening the potential for proactive movement forward and supporting increased self-determination and self-advocacy for the client.
You may be the first person your client will disclose disability information to.
Disclosure to you does not mean they will have to disclose to an employer.
Recap: Try starting each new meeting with the same introduction. This way, you do not need to single out people who you might suspect have a disability. This will also increase the chances that someone with an invisible condition will have the opportunity to disclose.
Elements of the Set Introduction
- Explain to clients that disability includes a condition of difference and being in a situation where they face barriers.
- Explain that clients have the choice to disclose any history of disability or diagnosis and they can even share if they think they may be living in a situation of disability.
- Explain that they will have the choice to do this with you as their support professional and again they will have this choice with an employer later on.
- Finally, explain that by sharing disability status, you can explore together new possibilities for approaching their path to employment.
Benefits of the Set Introduction
This approach goes far beyond just labeling people. It allows support professionals to engage in a process where clients can bring to light information that is important for them to progress. The goal of finding a diagnosis or information about a person’s condition of difference is to find necessary support to allow the client to thrive, and address barriers in the work environment, or to find support for the impairment effects of the disability.
If the client has no struggles and is not experiencing barriers, then this approach may not be necessary. It is much more likely that taking this path will involve clients who are struggling, far from the workplace, and who need additional support to succeed.
As a support professional, clients may share disability information with you. This is confidential information. You do not have the right to share it formally to other professionals or informally outside of work, unless you have the permission of the client.
Four Ways Clients May Respond
Doesn’t have a disability
Suspect Disability: History with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
Suspect Disability: Invisible Disability
Has a disability: Official or Unofficial Diagnosis.
Suspect a disability: Had an IEP at school
Young adults may have received an IEP while in school, which means that they were given a psycho-educational assessment and received either a diagnosis or were flagged for needing additional educational support.
These assessment files can be helpful to either find diagnostic information or to find a place to start for young adults who feel they may have a disability. These files can be requested by the clients themselves from their school or school board. This request can also be made by a support professional with the clients’ consent.
The clients may benefit from updating this information and status, to then be able to access necessary supports.
Suspect Disability: Invisible Disability
Invisible disabilities, including learning disabilities or mental health disabilities, may have gone unnoticed or undiagnosed.
What could be some signs that could signal to clients that they may have an invisible disability?
This may include:
- struggle with reading
- had significant struggles in school
- dropped out of school
- extremely low self esteem
- extreme lack of planning skills
- behaviour problems
This process could be very different depending on the resources and location of the community, however, there are some things you can do:
- Support your clients through the process of finding a diagnosis
- Create a space for them to share and express experiences
- Assess local resources together
- Discover the local specialists that you know and trust
Has a disability: Official or Unofficial Diagnosis
If your client has a disability and discloses this to you, you can go on to the next section (hyperlink)