How Do You Help Someone With a Developmental Disability?

An intellectual or developmental disability is a condition that can impact a person’s life— such as their ability to learn, their language development, sensory experiences, and behavior. However, with the right support, independence can be maximized so that a person with a developmental disability can live a fulfilling and happy life.

If you are wondering how to help someone with a developmental disability, keep reading for more information.

What Do Developmental Disabilities Include?

Three of the most well-known developmental disabilities are Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and autism. Autism and Down Syndrome are conditions that people are born with. Traumatic brain injury is acquired through trauma and can happen at any time during a person’s life. But of course, there are many more — for example, sensory processing disorders, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and metabolic developmental disabilities.

There are varying degrees of disabilities. Some people with developmental disabilities can live independently and function like someone without any type of disability. Others require round-the-clock health care and will never be able to live independently.

How Do You Help Someone With a Developmental Disability?

As already described, a developmental disability is an umbrella term for many different conditions — all with their unique symptoms and care needs. So there is no one-size-fits-all approach to caring for someone with a disability. However, the following tips are important for all caretakers and family members to do:

1. Get Educated

First and foremost, learning everything you can about the condition or disability the person you are caring for is living with is essential. Read books, subscribe to specialist magazines, visit websites, and, most importantly, find other people who know about that condition and ask them questions. Finding a parent or caretaker support group is a great way of doing this. For example, if you are the parent of a child with a developmental disability, you can find a parent support group in Little Rock for education and emotional support.

2. Get Support

As mentioned, support is vital when caring for someone with a developmental disability. As a caretaker, you are going to face some unique challenges that only other caretakers can understand. By seeking out a support group, you can receive long-term help and emotional support, even during some of the tougher times.

3. Enhance Your Communication Skills

Communicating with someone who has a developmental disability can mean acquiring unique communication skills. The person may not perceive what you are saying in the way you are intending, or understand the way you are phrasing sentences. Similarly, you might struggle to understand the way they are communicating which can lead to frustrations all around.

It is important that you use clear, straightforward language. Avoid over-complicating any matters. Keep communication friendly, with obvious body language that helps display your intentions and feelings. For example, when speaking to someone with autism, they may not pick up on any subtleties or forms of sarcasm. Therefore, conversations can become very muddled.

Direct communication is therefore very crucial. You can also explain how you are feeling, rather than trying to show the feeling — as this may not be picked up on. For example, you might say “I am feeling sad,” as this is a clear way of informing the person of the feeling. If you are not sure what to say, you can ask other caretakers for tips and advice, or watch how they interact with people with disabilities.

4. Don’t Assume

Making assumptions about a person’s disability can be patronizing and frustrating for them. They may be able to do certain tasks independently. So, if you assume they cannot do these tasks, you are further disabling them, rather than maximizing their independence. It is okay to ask the person how you can help them, what they specifically want help with, and what they are okay doing on their own. For example, if you are caring for someone who has Down Syndrome, and they want to fill out a job application, don’t assume they need help. Ask them if they feel they can do this on their own, and then give them the level of support that they require.

5. Help Yourself Too

When you are helping someone with a developmental disability, make sure you are also taking care of yourself. When you neglect your own needs and well-being, you are not going to be able to effectively care for others. Exercise, eat healthy and make sure you are making extra time for yourself.

This is important if you are a parent to a child with a developmental disability because your instinct is to try and serve your child’s needs around the clock. Not taking care of yourself can affect your sleep, your mood, and your ability to care for other children. You might even find that your mental health begins to suffer if you do not seek the help you need.

A good way to ensure holistic health for the whole family is to seek support in Little Rock. You might want to engage with a community-based service where some of the tasks you do are offloaded onto a caring professional. For example, if you are giving all-around care to a child or adult with a disability, which includes washing, dressing, and feeding them, you could ask for help with one or all of these tasks. This respite can help you to relax, focus on other important activities, and feel assured that the person you care for is receiving the best possible support.

We Can Help

Now that we’ve covered some basics on how you help someone with a developmental disability, we want to remind you to reach out for help if you need it. Even if it’s just to learn more about a disability. No matter what you’re after, Integrity, Inc. can help.

We provide support to adults and children with developmental disabilities. We offer adult day programs, community support, and parenting support so that you and your loved ones can live an independent, happy life. A developmental disability does not have to feel disabling. With the right support, tools, and resources, you can all live normal lives and thrive in the right setting. Contact us today at (501) 406-0442 or email us at

We are here for you!

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