Questions to Ask Yourself

Be sure to know the answers to the following questions before proceeding with an interview involving an individual with a disability.

Effective interviewing of an individual with a disability requires that some preliminary data be obtained either from records, other professionals that have had contact with the individual, or if necessary from the alleged victim.

Mistakes are often made in interviews when “assumptions” are made rather than “real evidence” regarding the type of disability and level of functioning. As a result, individuals often get frustrated or confused unnecessarily by questions, if the interviewer has not done his/her homework related to some basic information.

  1. What is this person’s primary disability?
    An individual may be described in multiple ways, e.g. having mental retardation, learning problems, hyperactivity, hearing loss. Determine which ONE is perhaps listed on an IEP in school, or used on a more formal testing report.
  2. Does the individual have any accompanying disabilities? e.g. cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hearing or visual impairments
  3. In what specific way does the disability impact upon their current functioning? e.g. cognitive, language, memory, social-emotional?
  4. Is this person highly distractible?
    If “yes”, care needs to be taken related to the location and types of materials used in the interview environment.
  5. Is there any information that communication might be a challenge?
    If so, determine the most effective method of communication given these possibilities:
    1. Sign Language
    2. Language Board
    3. Computer assisting devices
    4. Facilitative Communication
  6. Is there a marked difference in receptive vs. expressive communication?
  7. Does the interviewee have behavioral challenges that you know about?
    1. Verbal Perseverations
    2. Compulsive behaviors
    3. Self-abusive behaviors
    4. Person Assaultive behaviors
    5. Object Assaultive behaviors
    6. Pica behavior (i.e. Eating foreign substances compulsively)
    7. Withdrawal
  8. Are any of the above behaviors being considered as possible indicators of abuse?
    If “yes”, answer the following questions:
    1. What is the history of that behavior?
    2. Is there a behavioral “baseline” available?
    3. If baseline is there, has there been a clear behavioral change that has taken place during the timeframe in question?  Remember, when looking at a change in behavior consider:
      • Intensity of behavior
      • Duration of behavioral episodes
      • Change in Behavioral Repertoire
  9. Will any of the behaviors require support for management during the interview? If so, what are your plans for management during the interview?
  10. Are there Vulnerabilities to consider (See Resources)
    1. Historical compliance
    2. Limited education in self-protection and/or sexuality
    3. Interpersonal dependency
    4. Family Stress Issues and/or lack of family resources
    5. Apparent individual isolation

Based on the areas above, what is your strategic plan for this interview and issues you must consider?