Intellectual Disabilities can include learning disabilities or acquired disabilities such as acquired brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia.

Developmental disabilities refer to lifelong disabilities that have mental and/or physical limitations which occurred prior to age 18. People with these disabilities can be mildly or profoundly affected. You may not be able to notice that someone has this disability unless told.

When helping someone who may have an intellectual/developmental disability, most importantly remember WALL (Watch, Ask, Listen, Learn). Here are some other tips:

  • Speak directly to the person.
  • Do not over simplify your language. Some people have no problems understanding regular speech. Let each situation guide you. Speak regularly to start, and adjust your word choice and sentence length if need be.
  • Unless you have been directed to speak to someone other than the person to whom you communicating, don’t assume the person with a disability cannot communicate.
  • Make sure that what you are saying is understood and if you aren’t being understood try rephrasing it or using alternative words.
  • If you don’t understand what the person said, don’t pretend you understood. Ask them to repeat it or or ask that they change the words so you can understand.
  • Don’t assume what a person can or cannot do.