I recently had the opportunity to spend a day listening to Tony Attwood speak at the Asperger's Manitoba conference. Wow. I think it was the best conference I have ever been to. Although he was talking about Aspergers, I think some of the things he said could apply in many different situations.
I tried reading his book, The Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome, but did not make it through very much as it was not a light read. I find that with everything going on in my "full" life (How fortunate I am to lead a busy, overwhelming, hectic life) that I just don't have the concentration left for a heavy read.
However, he is way different in person. He's absolutely brilliant. I am still trying to digest everything that I heard, and I expect I will be posting several little tidbits here in the weeks to come.
One thing he suggested has really stuck with me. He recommended teaching the person to say, "I'm the kind of person who... has difficulty in loud environments, gets nervous around other people, needs to know what to expect, has difficulty with change, etc."
It seems so simple, but there are several things I love about this. First of all, it gives a person the opportunity to let people know what his or her needs are. It also normalizes those needs, as it implies that there are other people with those same needs. It eliminates the need for too much self-disclosure, and keeps the focus on the specific situation.
Everybody has different needs. As Temple Grandin says, "If you have met one person with autism... You have met one person with autism." The same can be said for anything else, including schizophrenia, Aspergers, brain injuries, and even no diagnosis.
However, with almost any issue we have, there are other people in the world who have that same issue. We can take comfort in this because we are not alone (even though it seems like it). The online world is great in that it helps to bring people with similar issues together.
Saying "I'm the kind of person who..." finds a nice balance between recognizing a person's individual needs at the same time as recognizing that those needs are also shared by other individuals. It makes it not about the disability, but about the individual person.