Since the invention of the smartphone, leaving the house to get essentials done has now become optional instead of mandatory. While this is a big win for individuals with disabilities, it may lead to an over-dependence on technology, especially those that find face to face interactions challenging. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of technology for individuals with a disability.
The Benefits of Technology
As of 2019, technology has allowed people with disabilities to have greater independence than ever before. Simply adding a smartphone to a person’s repertoire, however, makes it possible for that person to:
- Order and get groceries delivered
- Arrange to have the house cleaned and maintained
- Bank and pay bills
- Trade on a brokerage platform
- Get rides to anywhere
- Interact on social media
- Send and receive emails
- Use the Internet in all its wonderful (and scary) ways
- Read ebooks
- Take and send photographs
Anyone who can work a smartphone, even if they cannot speak, can do all the above and more. But what happens if the technology fails? Does the individual have the skills necessary to resolve the problem? Also, being able to do all of these things from their home may cause the individual to completely withdraw.
Technology is great but there is no substitute for human interaction. Humans are relational beings and do have a need for companionship. If an individual with a disability insists on isolating his or herself, it may be a sign of a significant mental health issue.
A person may be too independent if he or she:
- Lives alone without even pets or plants
- Always insists on doing everything themselves
- Doesn’t go out of the house for days
- Isolates themselves by turning down all invitations to gatherings, events, or social engagements. Even if s/he initially accepts an invitation, they cancel or reschedule every time
- Always lets the answering machine pick up telephone calls
- Always keeps everybody at arms’ length
- Always uses delivery services, like Shipt for groceries
Being too independent means a person rebuffs or avoids face-to-face interaction, even the most minimal kind. In most cases, these are actually indicators of diagnosable mental health issues. A mental health professional, either a psychotherapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (especially if the thought that some kind of medication may be needed), needs to perform an assessment to figure out if further action, like meds or therapy, or both, might be helpful.
It’s all too easy to overlook most kinds of mental illness because they’re mostly invisible, especially when another disability is involved. However, individuals with disabilities are already at an increased risk for suicide, so the prospect of a mental health issue should not be ignored. A classic caveat, though, is that the person needs to already want to engage in the therapeutic process for it to do any good at all. Even if the too-independent person resists or refuses therapy, at least s/he is now aware that a professional thinks some kind of treatment/follow-up action is advisable.
Where to Start
You don’t have to do it alone. RISE is an agency that has remarkable success with programs to help both people with disabilities and those who work with them. Helping someone to keep from isolating, and maintaining healthy contact with others is something RISE does extremely well. To start the process, reach out to RISE at www.riseservicesinc.org and fill out a contact form. The right person will call back and start the process of getting things rolling right then.