Remember the golden rule:
"It's common courtesy"
When interacting with people who have an intellectual disability, remember to
always think of the person before the disability. Talk directly to the person,
maintain eye contact, speak using simple sentences avoiding jargon and complex
terminology. Determine what he or she wants, and determine how best to deliver it by consulting with the person.
This may sound very simple, and it is. Appropriate interaction is common courtesy and common sense.
Do's and don'ts when interacting with people with an intellectual disability:
- do not question the person's disability
- don't be offended by a lack of response or unconventional behaviour
People with intellectual disabilities often respond in inappropriate or unexpected
ways. For example, they may say nothing when asked a direct question, or may
"fiddle" with objects in their environment, or may crowd your personal space. Such
behaviours are not generally intended to give offence.
- maintain eye contact. Maintaining eye contact shows respect and courtesy
to the person you are interacting with. It shows you are listening and trying
- do not use complex terminology or jargon This is a good rule to follow with almost
anybody, but is especially important when dealing with people with intellectual disabilities whose receptive
language skills are typically low.
- identify yourself and ask "May I help you?
- clearly identify your role, state your first name and make it clear that you
are seeking to assist
- offer physical assistance and direction
- show where materials are kept and assist with items such as photocopiers
- wherever possible, address the person with an intellectual disability by
their first name. People respond best to their first names and people with
intellectual disabilities are accustomed to being addressed by their first names.
- address any inappropriate behaviour
immediately. Explain any rules or regulations or behaviour that is expected or required. It is important
that people with intellectual disabilities know the parameters of acceptable
behaviour in any situation. If inappropriate behaviour is not checked immediately, it can be very
difficult subsequently to explain its inappropriateness.
- offer individual orientation tours
- point, use landmarks and use descriptive language, for example:
"the black desk over there where the computers are"
- provide broad subject choice