• About half of youth with disabilities report they feel very cared about by friends, and three-fourths say they can find a friend when they need one and can make friends easily.

• Despite these overall positive findings, a small minority of youth with disabilities report quite negative views of their personal relationships.


Most youth expect they will graduate from high school with a regular diploma. They are less confident they will attend a postsecondary school. The majority of youth with disabilities expect they will get a paid job, but they are less certain that these jobs will pay enough for them to be financially self-sufficient.

• Girls are more likely than boys to report being very sensitive to others’ feelings, whereas boys are more likely to report being good athletes and having strong mechanical abilities.

• Adolescent girls with disabilities are more likely than boys to say they frequently turn to friends and to siblings for support.

• Regarding their relationships in general, youth with disabilities are more likely than others without disabilities to report pervasive feelings of loneliness and of being disliked by others. Nonetheless, compared with youth in the general population, those with disabilities are more likely to say they receive ‘a lot’ of attention from their families and to report enjoying life and feeling hopeful about the future most or all of the time.”3 (emphasis added)


It is how we view our worth as a person. “Healthy or positive self-esteem does not mean that someone has an inflated or selfrighteous view of him or herself. One added challenge for a person with a disability may be viewing him or herself as a person first. A disability is only one fact of a person… Another issue for people with disabilities may be dealing with discrimination and stereotypes from society. Our society places emphasis on looks, speed, and being the same as everyone else.” 4 “Parents may provide a crucial role in shaping a child’s concept of him or herself. Parents can convey attitudes that the child is independent and successful or inadequate, incapable, and inferior. Thus, lack of confidence does not necessarily equal lack of ability. It may just be a false set of belief that a person holds about him or herself. Friends and society can also powerfully influence a person’s concept of him or herself. (Remember), you have become an expert at playing on a field that is not level as a result of dealing with your disability and peoples’ attitudes toward your disability” 4


• “I believe in accepting my disability as for what it is and make the best of it.”

• “… I realized that it is not what my disability allows me to do, it is what I don’t allow my disability to do.”

• “Disability is not my life but part of my life.” 4 •

SPECIAL TALENTS: More than half of youth with disabilities report they are at least “pretty good” in the areas of performing arts, creative arts, mechanical tasks, computer use, and physical or athletic performance.


H. Barry Waldman, DDS, MPH, PhD - Distinguished Teaching Professor, Department of General Dentistry at Stony Brook University, NY; E-mail: h.waldman@stonybrook.edu Steven P. Perlman, DDS, MScD, DHL (Hon) is Global Clinical Director, Special Olympics, Special Smiles and Clinical Professor of Pediatric Dentistry, The Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Private pediatric dentistry practice – Lynn MA. Matthew Cooke, DDS, MD, MPH is Associate Professor, Departments of Anesthesiology & Pediatric Dentistry University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine Pittsburgh PA; Assistant Clinical Professor, Departments of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and Pediatric Dentistry Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, Richmond, VA.


1. Burtner P. Society’s Attitude toward people with disabilities. Available from: paul-burtner.den- tal.ufl.edu/oral-health-care-for-persons-with-disabilities/societys-attitude-toward-people-with-disabilities Accessed May 3, 2016.

2. Scope about disability. Current attitudes towards disabled people. Available from: scope.org.uk/Scope/media/Images/Publication%20Directory/Current-attitudes-towards-dis- abled-people.pdf Accessed May 3, 2016.

3. Wagner M, Newman L, Cameto R, et al. National Center for Special Education Research. Perceptions and expectations of youth with disabilities: A special topic report of findings from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2). Available from: ies.ed.gov/ncser/pdf/20073006.pdf Accessed May 3, 2016.

4. Voigt RJ. Who me? Self-esteem for people with disabilities. Available from: brainline.org/content/2009/05/who-me-self-esteem-for-people-with-disabilities.html Accessed May 4, 2016.