Teachers, behavioral therapists, behavior interventionists, site directors, etc., there are so many types of jobs that work with students who have cognitive disabilities, and one of the things that many people, especially in positions like that, forget that words matter. What we say, and how we say it can affect how our students react and how the next scene will play out. How can we be cautious? Simple, think before we speak. Easier said than done, because even if we say something it could be received completely different. So, what should we say instead of what we are used to saying?
INSTEAD OF: BE QUIET
Normally we could tell someone to be quiet in order to get things done or to even be able to think. Instead of saying "be quiet", it is more efficient and affective to say, "Can you use a softer voice?"
INSTEAD OF : STOP CRYING
Emotions are valid, no matter who you are, even if you are a grown man who is going through a rough patch. However, when students are told to stop crying, especially those with cognitive disabilities they are more than likely to get upset, causing a bigger issue. Instead of telling the student to stop crying tell them that "it's okay to cry."
INSTEAD OF: WE DON'T TALK LIKE THAT
I've done it, and you've done it, we've all done it. At some point in time we have told a child that "we don't talk like that" no matter the context of the situation. Instead of saying that, instead we should inform them to use kind words, and present it in a sentence such as "Please use kind words." This enforces a different approach that the students will adapt to over time.
INSTEAD OF: DO I NEED TO SEPARATE YOU?
Yes, students will get excited, they will make loud commotions, they will create a scene if they are with their best friends; however, we need to realize that sometimes when they are doing this it is usually because they are trying to get something off their chest and they don't know how. Instead of saying, "Do I need to separate you?" we should be wording it a bit differently, such as, "Could you use a break?"
We are all humans, and even though we may work with children in different ways we can come together and create a healthier environment for the students to come to us and be able to understand that we are not mad at them, just trying to understand them, help them, and push them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. By doing so we must watch our words, because words have more power than we realize it, especially in the heat of the moment.