Strategies for Working With Adults With Developmental Disabilities


Adults with developmental disabilities struggle with activities like learning, language, mobility and independent living, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While adults with developmental disabilities may struggle with day-to-day activities, many are still capable of socializing with peers and having a job. When working with adults that have developmental disabilities, understanding specific skills that work best for communicating with this type of population is necessary.

Eye Contact

When you talk to the person with a developmental disability, look her in the eye. This helps the person form a relationship with you. A person with a developmental disability needs to feel like she matters. Looking her in the eye will also show her that you are not deterred by her disability.

Be Clear in Directions

Every instruction that you give someone with a developmental disability should be clear. Give him step-by-step instructions. When he finishes the first step, tell him the second. Do not leave any details out of the instruction.

Hands-On Activities

When teaching someone with developmental disabilities, use hands-on activities to help her understand. Make sure these activities are simple enough to understand. For instance, if you are teaching a person with developmental disabilities how to clean her room, complete the task with her as you tell her what to do. This will help her with the concrete properties of the activity.

Encourage Communication

An adult with a developmental disability has opinions about events, people and places. Encourage him to share this information with you and his peers. Allowing someone with developmental disabilities to share his opinion encourages self-esteem and productivity.


Offer a social group for the adult with developmental disabilities. It is helpful for people with these disabilities to understand she is not the only one who experiences certain things. Peers will help form positive social skills.

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