How To Interview Someone With A Learning Disability?
A learning disability is said to be a limited intellectual ability that obstructs day-to-day activities like shopping, cooking, e.t.c. It restricts the daily routine of anyone regardless of gender, age or size. It is not a mental illness or disorder, nor is it a learning difficulty, but it sounds similar and easily confusing. This is why as a journalist interviewing an individual living with a learning disability, you must do proper research on the kind of disability and know the difference between a mental illness, learning difficulty, and a learning disability.
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It is essential to reach out to the family members of your guest, to understand them better, so easing them into the process and an unfamiliar setting doesn’t disorient them.
As stated earlier, there are differences between learning disability, learning difficulty, and mental illness, and they are:
Learning difficulty: is a condition that affects the acquisition of knowledge and skills in the usual way due to either a mental disability or a disorder. It isn’t long-term and can be managed. There are various forms of learning difficulties, and they are:
Mental illness: It is a health condition that changes the overall thinking, behaviour, and emotions of an individual. Most people exhibit all these changes concurrently. It can also be treated and managed. Some mental illnesses are:
Guidelines For Interviewing Someone With a Learning Disability
As a journalist interviewing an individual with a learning disability, you need to understand that it is pretty different from the regular interviews conducted for a individual without a learning disability. These are guidelines enumerated to aid a seamless discussion.
- Ensure the environment is comfortable, free of noise and any distractions.
- Ensure the interview space is easily accessible and spacious.
- Avoid speaking in terminologies that are hard to understand. Use clear, simple, and concise words, phrases, and sentences.
- Explain to the interviewees the use of any recording equipment you may have brought to the interview to aid in recording the session. This way, you eliminate any distractions that sound from this equipment may cause.
- Allot enough time for the interview, considering who you are interviewing.
- Be slow while asking questions so that they can be processed quickly.
- Repeat yourself as many times as possible when your interviewee does not understand you correctly.
- Give room for them to explain correctly differently when you do not understand what has been said.
- Ask open questions. These questions should be able to lead to other questions. A simple yes and no would leave you hanging.
- Use large fonts for any written information that will be passed across.
- If you are interviewing with a support worker, you can ask the support worker questions about who you are interviewing for clarification. Ensure to ask your guest first before requesting more information from the worker.
- Have breaks in between questions for the recovery of your guest.
- Show empathy and compassion.
- Do not shout. Reading lips is an added advantage when a helper isn’t available.
- Make provisions for logistics if and when necessary to ease the movement of your guest.
Tips On Questions To Ask/Not Ask Someone With A Learning Disability
- Focus questions on how the indivudual can perform the job and not how the disability restricts the individual.
- Focus on questions that highlight your guest’s abilities, qualities, and achievements and not on the disability.
- Focus questions on their likes, dislikes, and hobbies. Questions like these tend to relax an individual.
- Ask if they need anything at their jobs to make working more comfortable?
- Ask for their ideas to improve the organisation.
- Always have to follow up questions to maintain the tempo.
- Ask if they take any medications that make it unsafe to do their job.
- Questions should be focused on how the disability affects work and not on them.
- Ask about work hours, rotation, and breaks.
- Do not ask personal questions like; How did you get the disability, How do you struggle with the disability, Do not ask if they have lost a job due to the disability.
- Do not ask about intimacy or sexual relationships.
- Do not ask if it is contagious.
- Do not ask if they are “OK”; it can be upsetting.
What to do and What You Shouldn't do When Reporting Learning Disability
When reporting or interviewing, some words or phrases tend to come off as either demeaning or endearing, so we will be considering some phrases you should use and some phrases you should avoid when reporting a learning disability.
Phrases To Use
- An individual with Down’s Syndrome or Autism
- Learning Disability
- People with Mental Health Problems
- People with hearing problems
- People with a speech impairment
- People with a learning disability
- Partially sighted people or people with sight problems
- People with Profound and Multiple Learning disabilities (PMLD)
- An individual with a learning disability
- People with (SLD) Severe Learning Disability
Phrases Not To Use
- Victims or Sufferers of Down’s Syndrome
- Learning Difficulty
- Mentally illness or mentally ill
- The deaf or hearing impaired.
- Dumb or Mute
- People with a learning disability
- Visually impaired or blind people
- Mentally handicapped or Learning disabled
These phrases directly or indirectly affect people or an individual living with a learning disability, and when writing, reporting, or interviewing, it should be put into consideration.
Although people living with disabilities are fragile and may need help for their daily lives or mostly all their lives, they do not need to be reminded about their inadequacies, shortcomings, or the impact their disability has on their general wellbeing. It is advised to talk to them as you would an individual without a disability and make them feel confident in their disability.