I’ve worked closely with adults & children that have intellectual disabilities since I can remember.

I’ve had many different experiences, and met tons of different people with different personalities. I’ve experienced people of different ages, interests, and ethnicity.

I’ve seen Medicaid regulations change, acceptable terms for people with disabilities change. 

One thing about working with people who experience disabilities has remained the same, & that’s how people view me. 

Strangers say, “There’s a special place in heaven for people like you, I don’t know how you do it.”

Friends say, “It takes a special person to do what you do, keep it up.”

Families of clients I work for say, “Thank you for all you do, God is going to bless you so much.”

My parents say, “So proud of you Tamra, your work is admirable.”

While I am appreciative of these words, and I’m certain they come from a good place, it also exposes a clear difference in thought processes.

I say, “The work I do is normal.”

I say, I don’t deserve a special place in heaven based on my job.”

I say, “It doesn’t take a special person, anybody can do it.”

Anybody can do it … with a slight mindset adjustment, that is. Allow me to explain:

When’s the last time you heard that “you have a special place in heaven” for being a friend, or that “it takes a special person” to be a good sister?

Never, right?

It is normal to treat people in your life with care. Normal to treat others with respect. “Treat people the way you would like to be treated” is THE golden rule. It is drilled into our baby brains in grade school. It is behavior for all adults to follow in every situation.

Treating people who experience disabilities with typical levels of respect reserves you a sparkling seat in heaven, right next to Jesus himself?


“Treating with respect is cool, but aren’t THEY hard to work with?”

Let’s take away the “THEY”. Each and every person is different. There is no mold that a person fits into, there is not box of behaviors someone has. We are all “THEY” to someone else, aren’t we?

Some people may need more support, or be challenging to relate to but this is also true with co-workers at my job, with my family members, with strangers, with people in my friend group…

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My mindset is a little different than most, partially because my situation is too.

I’m surrounded by people who experience disabilities. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve worked with. I’ve formed long lasting friendships, and I value the time I spend with each and every one of my people.

Now, I’m not saying go find a group of people that have been given the “ID” stamp and force a friendship by pretending to be their best friend or showering them with hugs and kisses.

Imagine doing that to a random stranger.

I’m challenging you to think about the way you think about people who experience disabilities. Remember each person is different. We are all human.

I’m saying …

Don’t generalize!

Them & They” can be dangerous words when they are used to group people in boxes. Each person is an individual, with their own personalities. They have their own interests, goals in life, fears, as we all do.

Avoid labels!

“Those black people”

“Those white people”

“All those homosexuals”

Strike a nerve? Cringe at all? Same, I’m with you. These phrases are inappropriate, and deserve a space in the trash, along with phrases like “The special needs kids” “Those people in wheelchairs” “Nonverbals” (and if you use the R-word – just stop. Immediately stop). If you are worried about offending and aren’t sure what words to use instead – just use someone’s name. It’s okay not to label at all. Which brings me to my next point —

Remember each person has a name.

Labels can extremely offensive, and restricting. Labels usually just mention someone’s weaknesses, instead of all the good qualities they offer. Take time to get to know the person you are discussing, as they are very different from the next person you may meet.

Give respect.

Because everyone deserves it.

“How am I supposed to have a relationship with a person that doesn’t talk?”

Would you believe me I said you, (yes, you) problem solve ways to tear down communication barriers every day? If someone doesn’t understand what you are trying to say, you may creatively explain it differently.

If a phone call isn’t working, you may send a text, or an email. If neither works, face-to-face conversation certainly will.

Communication is merely exchanging information between two people.

How that is done, the sky is the limit. Sometimes we must work a little more creatively, but that’s the fun part.

“We get it, your job is so easy! So what’s the hard part?”

The hardest of my job does not involve the people that I support. The most difficult thing to do is advocate, and break down stigmas affiliated with people experiencing disabilities.

For that reason, I challenge you to examine your thinking. If you recognize yourself in this, I am certain that after tweaking your mind set just a tad, you too will be exposed to some amazing people, and a seat in heaven right next to me, in the “Treats All People Equally” section.  Thank me later!