Ausome & Able 


Tips On Working with People with Disabilities

Updated: Jan 27, 2018

#Disability #Disabilities #SpecialNeeds #SpecialEducation #DownSyndrome #Autism #Inclusion #Tips

So, you are going to be around or working with people with intellectual and developmental


Are you nervous? Scared? Intimidated? Uncertain?

While some people wouldn't admit this, I think everyone feels this way when they are put in a position they hadn't been in before.

So my first piece of advice?

1. Remember People with Special Needs are People.

You might be thinking, "well duh?"

The reason that is my first piece of advice is because people really do forget that people with special needs are actual people

People who have the same emotions, wants, and dreams as everyone else.

Keep that in mind always.

2. Be Kind

Be patient, be courteous, be understanding.

Help them carry the conversation, sometimes that's part of their disability and carrying a conversation can be difficult.

It does not mean they do not want to communicate.

3. Be Age Appropriate

Would you talk to any 40 year old man like a 5 year old? No?

I'm a huge advocate for speaking in a normal speaking voice.


1. It's respectful, it shows them you believe in their abilities.

2. It helps them develop and understand language better.

We are alllllll parrots yall. We pick up on people's tones, accents, phrases, and apply it to our own repetoire, and we don't even realize it.

Also be age appropriate in your activities

Do I mean yall can't listen to High School Musical music? No!

What I mean is do activities that are more challenging

Example: Instead of coloring a kid coloring book, give them an adult one.

Instead of water colors, give them acrylic or real paint.

Instead of duck duck goose, play capture the flag.

You will be surprised how they notice when you treat them their age.

4. If You are Teaching Them Something, Be Short and Literal

I'll go ahead and tell you if you try and explain long detailed instructions to someone with special needs (or me), you will lose us.

Be short. Be literal. Use visuals if possible (these are just pictures or objects, for example: place a spot where you want them to stand).

SHOW them the game or the activity then let them try.

If they still don't get it, show them again.

Modeling (aka showing them physically) the right way is much more valuable than trying to reexplain or telling them what they did wrong.

Encourage them

Also don't be a perfectionist

If a game or activity isn't going the way you planned, don't get down on yourself or get frustrated with them.

If they are participating, trying, and having fun.

That is all that matters.

You are doing a great job.

If the game or activity is really a struggle (we've all been there), then change your plans! Some of my best games and activities came from situations like this!

5. Don't Do Everything For Them

This is a big one in my book. People in this day in age are constantly speeding through everything in life.

People with special needs do things slower, but just because they may do things slower does not mean they don't know how or don't want to do things on their own.

I knowww you want to just do it for them because it's taking too long, but RESTRAIN YO SELF FRIEND!

Instead, put that energy into showing them how to do things!

Example: Using a microwave

"Open microwave door" *opens microwave door*

"Put food in microwave" *put food in microwave

"Push 1 minute" *push 1 button microwave*

"Press start" *push start button*

Show them, then let them try. They may forget the steps, verbally remind them or show them again.

They may get it and learn a skill they may use the rest of their life


they may never get it.

The end results really do not matter.

All that matters is that they tried and you gave them confidence and power by allowing them to do something on their own.

6. Believe in Them.

Don't discount them. Don't discount any idea you have for any activity because it may be "too challenging".

You think capture the flag sounds fun? GO FOR IT!

If it doesn't work immediately, tweak the rules a little.

Still not working? That's okay, try another game.

Always have high expectations

I picked games and activities based on what I thought was fun and what I thought my group would find fun. I never really thought about if they could do it or not.

My first group of individuals got a huge kick out of my ideas, the good ones and the bad ones.

It isn't so much about the activity itself, but the heart and effort you put into it; they pick up on that.


7. Bring the Energy


Before my adaptive classes I always drink an ungodly amount of caffeine. My athletes feed off my energy and craziness.

But even for my 1-on-1 life skills sessions I always try to get myself pumped up!

Why is this important?

Because people feed off other peoples energy!

This is not different for people with disabilities!

Be excited! Be silly! Have fun! Let loose! Be a friend!

I promise you it makes a difference.

Thank you for putting yourself out of your comfort zone and giving

people with disabilities a chance!

I promise you, you won't regret it.

Please feel free to contact me if you have ANY questions.

What are some of yalls tips for working with people with special needs?



2019 Taylor Koonce

Ausome Adaptive, LLC 

All Rights Reserved