We use the terms dignity and respect as foundational principles in the Mandt System. But what does it mean to treat someone with dignity? In other words, what does dignity look like in action? I started my investigation of this idea with first defining dignity . I learned that dignity really means to value the humanity each and every one of us possesses. Then how can I with my actions communicate other peoples’ value to them?

I began to think about the idea of a strength-based approach: communicating to people the strength that they possess and how they can leverage that strength to overcome or mitigate their weaknesses. Many times people take a deficit view of themselves and others. They focus in on the things that are lacking in others and themselves. However, we should instead focus on strengths and communicate with one another how those qualities are beautiful, valuable, and necessary for overall success and quality of life.

To provide an example, I want to apply this to the school environment, particularly when talking about students who have disabilities. Here are 5 ways to communicate dignity to students with disabilities:

1. Use student first language so that these students’ personhood is their primary identifier as opposed to their disability. For example, she is a student with Autism as opposed to an Autistic student.

2. Employ a strength-based approach in IEP team meetings.

3. Monitor your ratio of positive to negative interactions, BUILD PEOPLE UP!

4. Celebrate successes!

5. Empower students by establishing a learner centered environment where students are emotionally and psychologically safe to take risks.

Environments characterized by dignity are safer for everyone!!

Dr Dustyn Alexander – Mandt Faculty