Intellectual Disabilities

People with intellectual or developmental disabilities may have difficulty doing many things most of us take for granted. These disabilities can mildly or profoundly limit one’s ability to learn. You may not be able to know that someone has one of these disabilities unless you are told, or you notice the way people act, ask questions or body language. 

Here are some suggestions to help you interact with people with intellectual disabilities: 

  • As much as possible, treat the person with an intellectual disability like anyone else. They may understand more than you think, and they will appreciate you treating them with respect. 
  • Don’t assume what a person can or cannot do. 
  • Avoid referring to the disability or using phrases like “handicapped”. 
  • Use simple words and short sentences. 
  • Make sure the person understands what you’ve said. 
  • If you can’t understand what’s being said, ask again. 
  • Give one piece of information at a time. 
  • Be polite and patient. 
  • Speak directly to the person, not to someone who is with the person. 


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