Hosting a student with a disability is in many ways like hosting any other student. However, there are some additional considerations that can help to make the experience more comfortable for both the family and the student.
Suggestions for Advisers
- Communication: Encourage the family to offer help to the student with his/her daily activities. Homestay families should not, however, be expected to provide personal assistance.
- Expectation: A student with a disability should be expected to interact with the host family in the same way as any other student on the program and follow any other rules associated with homestays.
- Education: To promote understanding and good communication, encourage the family to learn as much about the student's disability as possible and not to rely on stereotypes.
- Accommodation: For a student with a visual impairment, the home should be cleared of any obstacles or hazards.
- Assistance: Clarify for the host family any medication requirements the student may have.
- Support: Clarify with the host family the boundaries of their responsibility and encourage them to contact you if they have questions or concerns.
Suggestions for Host Families
- Open-Minded: Do not make assumptions about a student's needs or rely on stereotypes. Learn about the specific way the student is impacted by his/her disability.
- Understanding: As if you can help before you act.
- Responsibility: As a homestay host, you are not expected to provide personal assistance with dressing, bathing, etc. If a student needs assistance, a personal attendant will be hired.
- Sensitivity: Don't be overly self-conscious about using certain words and phrases, such as "See what I mean?" or "I've got to run." These are part of our common language and are not offensive.
- Patience: Be considerate of the extra time it might take a disabled student to speak or act.
- Etiquette: Speak directly to the student, not to a companion or interpreter.
- Adjustment: US students with disabilities are often very independent and may need time to adjust to new ways of dealing with their disabilities.
- Communication: Talk with the student about their medical needs, including medication and health care.
- Awareness: The general nature of the student's disability and needs should be communicated to you in advance so that you can prepare for the student's arrival. Discuss with program staff any adaptations that may be necessary to the home environment to accommodate the student's disability.
Selecting the Homestay
If the student has limited mobility, finding a homestay close to class or accessible transportation will be a priority.
It is not necessary to find a family experience with a disability. Any family that receives adequate orientation/information about a student's needs could be a potential host family for a student with a disability.
Talk with the student about what information about the student's disability to disclose to the host family. In most cases, a host family needs to know the effects the disability may have on the student's daily routine and what kind of assistance or modifications will be helpful to provide.
Modifications in the Home
When hosting a student with a mobility disability, the family may need to adapt the home. Some examples:
- Consider accessibility to bathrooms, entrances, and doorways
- Circumvent steps
- Assess whether the floor surfaces are smooth and unobstructed
- Provide handrails to make stairways manageable
- Remove a door and hang a curtain instead to widen doorways
- Put handrails, a hand-held shower attachment, or a stool in the shower