Tips for Socializing for Adults with Disabilities

Read Time: 2:23
Published: Sep 7th, 2021
Tips for Socializing for Adults with Disabilities

Intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are disorders that begin in childhood. These disorders affect an individual's physical, intellectual, and/or emotional development. Plus, multiple body parts and systems can be impacted.

Developmental disabilities have many causes and symptoms. People with intellectual disabilities usually have difficulty with:

  • Understanding abstract concepts (such as money and time)
  • Understanding interpersonal interactions (communication and social responses)
  • Understanding and using ideas and concepts necessary for planning and organization
  • Learning skills and the ability to process information as quickly

Encouraging adults with I/DD to form friendships can help them be part of their community. Connecting to other people is a basic human necessity. Making friends comes easily for some of us, but that's not true for everyone. Adults with I/DD sometimes need guidance in making those connections, setting boundaries, and reading social cues.

Providing tips for socializing for adults with disabilities to a loved one with I/DD can help increase their self-esteem and make it easier to form those much-needed bonds we all need!

Social Boundaries

If you're a caregiver or a family member of a person with I/DD, you might need to help them understand social boundaries or personal space. Some techniques that might help include:

  • Role-playing social situations
  • Demonstrating the wrong way to interact with people
  • Following up with the correct way to handle a situation

With these tools, you can discuss different scenarios with your friend or family member to prepare them for various situations they may face. 


Explaining the importance of approachability can be a starting point. Describe how an unapproachable person seems, and ask them to describe the demeanor of an approachable person:

  • How they sit or stand
  • Their attitude
  • Their facial Expressions

While you can explain that it's okay to show negative emotions, it's best to avoid these and try to seem approachable in situations like job interviews or social interactions when they're trying to meet people.


When you're explaining different social situations, you'll need to explain the role of touching and what makes some touching inappropriate. You can discuss the way a person might touch a family member or friend versus a stranger. In either situation, touching is only okay if both people consent to the physical contact.


Even though this conversation might be cringey, it's important to discuss sexual boundaries so that your loved one can be safe and treat others with respect:

  • Explain the basic rules of dating, such as honesty, being loving, and being kind.
  • Discuss how consensual relationships work.
  • Explain that they can plan a date night based on their interests.

Explaining these tips for socializing for adults with disabilities can help your family member make meaningful relationships and be part of the community. Encouraging friendship in adults with I/DD can give them the nudge they needed to create a social circle.

About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

Editor's Note

If you have children who have disabilities preparing for their financial future is essential. Those without disabilities have problems becoming their parent's caregivers when they get older; however, those with disabilities may need their own care and cannot help their older parents.

Being proactive about long-term health care planning is key to managing your future care and protecting assets. You will want to preserve as much money in your estate, not just for your lifestyle and retirement, but for them once you pass.

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LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee
Mallory Knee

Contributor Since
September 25th, 2020

Freelance writer where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty

About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion.

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