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Etiquette for Use with People Who Have an Intellectual Disability

When you are with a person who has an intellectual disability:

  • Use simple sentences—not baby talk—and please speak in a normal tone of voice—but don't use complex words where simple words will do. Talk to the person as a person; talk to adults as adults, not children. Do not be condescending.
  • Find commonalities to talk about—TV shows, movies, church events, families.
  • Make instructions clear and concise. Don't combine many steps into one instruction.
  • Talk with the person even though they may not be verbal enough to respond. If they cannot respond, at the very least, introduce yourself, tell them who you are and that you are pleased to meet them. Shake hands if that is appropriate.
  • Give clear, non-judgmental feedback when behavior is not appropriate. If you are unsure about how to respond or handle a situation, ask your minister, Accessibility/Disability Committee, family member. Be non-judgmental and patient.
  • Be generous, but appropriate, with compliments when behavior is appropriate—or when the person has accomplished a task, or taken initiative.

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Last updated on Wednesday, April 20, 2011.

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