Five tips to support people with disabilities to make their own decisions

Earlier this year the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) updated and released their Supported Decision-Making Policy to improve how people with disabilities can be supported to make decisions in the NDIS. But do you know what supported decision making is?

The NDIS describes it as the process of providing support to people to make decisions and remain in control of their lives.

Everyone uses supported decision making at some stage of their lives. Such as asking a friend or family about their experience or opinion before making a big purchase, enrolling in a course or even booking a holiday.

People with disabilities may need more support when it comes to making their own decisions. Here are five tips to support people with disabilities in this process:

  1. Attention to communication

Communication does not need to be limited to one method only. It is helpful to dedicate some time to understand someone’s preferred method of communication, this can be:

  • Verbal communication
  • Visual communication (e.g., images, photos)
  • Body and sign language (e.g., Auslan, facial expression, gestures)
  • Behaviour clues (e.g., push things away, go stiff)

Sometimes, even a mix of these methods can assist when delivering a message.

It is also important to consider that some people will need a lot of information whilst other people can feel overwhelmed or might not need that level of detail to make a decision. Listening to the person and being aware of their body language and behaviour clues will assist with determining the right amount of information they require before making a decision.

Some apps to assist with communication include:

  • Helptalk – It helps people unable to verbally communicate to express their basic needs
  • Voice4you – a text-to-speech app with natural sounding voices in 30+ languages and gender options.

Other tips for communicating with people with intellectual disabilities:

  • Use short, clear and direct sentences
  • Rephrase information if it is not understood, or present it in a different format
  • Avoid using humour, sarcasm, figures of speech or colloquialisms.
  1. Education about consequences and practicalities

Most decisions made, have pros and cons. When supporting someone in their decision-making process it is important to clearly explain the consequences and practicalities of making that decision.

Depending on the decision to be made, it can be helpful to do some research to better understand all risks and benefits involved. It also ensures that all options were considered and confident that every aspect has been covered and discussed.

Breaking down the information and creating little steps to be followed when sharing the information, can also facilitate the overall process.

  1. Listen and be patient

It is like William Langland once said, “Patience is a virtue”. After presenting all information to support someone to make their own decision, it is appropriate to allow them to take their time to process and think what they want to do next.

They might have questions; they might need someone to listen to their thoughts or they might even need everything explained from the top again. Whatever it might be, it’s worthwhile remembering to be patient and listen to them.

Decision making is a skill that needs to be developed and practiced, like many other skills.

  1. Acknowledge risks and low expectations

Acknowledging low expectations is a great opportunity to not only support the decision-making process but also to build confidence along the way. Afterall, it is very normal for most people to feel apprehensive when making important decisions. This allows consideration of questions such as “what do you think about this?” or “how would you feel about this situation?”, which offers an opportunity to reflect further on the impacts of the decision and minimise any risks involved.

  1. Join a Self-Advocacy Group

Multicap has a self-advocacy group offering free meetings for customers. The group is called Have A Voice and Educate Network (HAVEN) and it is all about confidently speaking up for what matters, asking for what is needed and wanted, understanding rights and responsibilities and making choices and decisions that shape lives. It is a powerful tool that enables people to take control of their destiny and actively participate in decision making processes.

If you would like to join, please email [email protected] or phone our friendly customer service team today on 1300 135 886.

People with disabilities have the right to make their own decisions and when properly supported, they can increase their self-esteem, self-respect, feel empowered and valued. However, if their preferences and decisions put them at risk of harm a substitute decision making arrangements may be needed.


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