Understanding Me: Helping Teenagers gain an understanding of their disability

Most teenagers struggle with their self-image growing up and teens with learning disabilities have even more to worry about. They often know they have more learning difficulty than others and as a result, feelings of embarrassment, failure, anxiety and low self-esteem are all too common. Unfortunately, many teens and parents avoid talking about disabilities and what it means for the individual and their future.

As teenagers are growing up, they are increasingly aware of the widening difference between themselves and their peers, and may perceive themselves as being “slow” or “stupid”. This lack of self-awareness occurs alongside all of the other changes of adolescence. Many teenagers with communication disorders find it difficult to understand and come to terms with their diagnosis. By enabling students to understand what their own particular diagnosis means, it empowers them so that they can explain their difficulties to others.

In line with best practice for young people transitioning to adulthood and planning post-school options, transition-focused planning should begin no later than age 14. It is recommended that students remain central to the planning process and participate in decision-making and evaluation. Best practice recommends social skills training, independent living skills training and learning strategies skills training.

‘Understanding Me’ by Stewart and Hampshire (2007) is a resource that was developed in response to the needs of teenagers with communication disorders and can be a useful tool for guiding discussions about disabilities. It was introduced as part of a program in the Senior School at Glenleighden by Cathy Nicholson (CHI.L.D AssociationSLP) who came across the ‘Understanding Me Program’ while working with teenagers in the UK.

The following topics are recommended when discussing your teen’s disability:

  1. What does intelligence mean? What are the different types of intelligence?
  2. What is my strength profile like? What am I good at? What am I not so good at?
  3. Terminology – What is a Speech Pathologist/ Occupational Therapist/ Physiotherapist and how can they help me?
  4. What is a diagnosis? What does my diagnosis mean?
  5. Can I explain my diagnosis to others in my own words?

This article was provided by Let’s Talk Development Hub and if you require any further information please contact them direct.

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