When you’re communicating with a person with an intellectual disability, it’s important that the person feels as comfortable as possible communicating with you. This could mean making sure you are in a quiet environment and you are communicating one-on-one with the person. Everyone is different though so take the person’s lead on how they communicate.
Here are some tips to be a good communicator:
- Choose an environment that the person feels comfortable in
- Give the person your full attention and talk directly to the person, not over them or about them
- Communicate in the way that works best for the person you are communicating with. Be open to using different communication tools such as drawing or using pictures
- Speak clearly and don’t use jargon or long words that are hard to understand. Break what you’re saying into smaller chunks
- Ask open questions and don’t ask too many at once
- Think about your body language. If appropriate, use gestures and facial expressions and make sure the person can see your mouth and hands as you speak
- Take your time and give the person time to respond to you
- Don’t assume you know what a person is saying if they are having trouble communicating. Check with the person that you have understood them.
- If you are having trouble understanding what a person is saying they may have a friend or support person with them who can join in the conversation with you. Always check with the person first though.
People with intellectual disabilities want to be treated the same as everyone else. They want to be seen as a person first, not their disability.
What people with intellectual disabilities said
When I feel respected:
- When you treat us with the same respect as other people
- When you acknowledge us
- When you accept us
- When you help us when we want help
- When you understand that having an intellectual disability doesn’t mean we don’t understand you
- When you let us answer your questions in our own time
When I feel disrespected:
- When you ignore me
- When you interrupt me
- When you speak to me like I’m a child
- When you are afraid to talk to me
- When you assume that you know all about me
- When you think I don’t have thoughts and feelings
- When you think I’m not good at many things