5 Tips for Improving Communication Skills for People with IDD

5 Tips for Improving Communication Skills for People with IDD

May 04, 20232 min read

Communication is a vital part of a person’s daily life, utilizing it to express themselves and connect with others around them. However, for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, effective communication can represent a significant challenge in navigating the world around them. 

Improving these skills and working on enhancing them can significantly change a person with IDD and their well-being by allowing them the opportunity to socialize, learn, and live more independently. 

Here are 5 helpful tips that both caregivers and individuals with IDD can practice to enhance communication skills and move forward with a better quality of life.


  1. Visual Aids. This method goes beyond the use of picture cards and can include schedules, communication boards, social stories, and more. Giving the person the opportunity to express their feelings, wants, and needs and further understand their surrounding environment will help an individual interact in a more meaningful way and gain confidence in their ability to communicate in the future. 

  2. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Devices such as tablets and communication boards help individuals to communicate their thoughts, wants, and needs and are useful if the individual is limited in physical movement.

  3. Nonverbal communication. Similar to AAC, nonverbal communication can present itself as gestures, facial expressions, sign language, or even touch. Pointing and nodding, body language or even a pat on the back are ways to communicate for both the caregiver and the individual more effectively.

  4. Practice social communication skills. Taking turns and staying on topic can often be difficult for an individual with IDD to understand. Practice these skills with activities including role-playing, group events, board games, team building, and more to allow an individual to understand and enhance social skills in a safe and supportive environment, while also developing relationships and confidence in future situations.

  5. Positive reinforcement. As always it is essential to provide support, encouragement, and positive feedback to an individual with IDD. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator in building confidence and improving communication skills.

For a person with an intellectual or developmental disability, the ability to communicate substantially impacts their quality of life. By using verbal and nonverbal methods, and practicing these in a safe and supportive environment, individuals with IDD can significantly improve their ability to express themselves, further understand their environment, and create meaningful relationships with others. For our downloadable version, click here to access.

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