Socialising my toddler with ID

Depending upon your child’s level of Intellectual Disability(ID) there may or may not be difficulties in their ability to interact with others. Many children with ID may have associated learning disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) that can also impede their ability to interact with others. Many children with a severe ID may also have a physical disability and be wheelchair bound which may or may not impede their ability to interact with others.


Many children with ID are very social and like to interact with others but may lack the understanding of how to do this properly. For those children who have a more severe ID it is still very important to create opportunities for them to have interactions with others so that they can develop to their potential.

The opportunities given in these early years can help in creating success in the school years through the development of basic interaction skills, play skills and coping mechanisms that will be necessary. If your young child with ID has an associated learning disability such as ASD or ADHD their ability to interact with others may require extra supports.

The early years for all children are a time when parents begin teaching their child basic skills. For your child with ID they will require more time to practise skill development to get them ready for the future years at early intervention, kindergarten and school.  The following are some developmental skills that can help your child to learn in readiness for the future:

  • Playing simple interaction games with an adult- reaching for the person or toward an object in a game eg rolling a ball to and fro, throwing and catching a ball
  • Showing interest in other children and beginning to play- create play opportunities with same age children and play alongside them to help them understand the game while labelling the peers actions with short statements ‘Charlie is throwing the ball’ ‘Sarah is waving’ ‘Gary has asked you to play’
  • Beginning to play without an adult- while playing with another child move yourself physically away but still in view, your child will see that they can be successful in play without your immediate support
  • Responding to another adult- create opportunities for other adults, family members, friends to slip into the role you have undertaken as this will help your child understand that they are able to interact successfully with others
  • Developing social skills- model ‘please and thank you’ ‘hello and goodbye’ when interacting with others
  • Interacting in other environments- after practicing the development of these skills at home, it is important that your child can use the skills learnt in other environments. Begin to take your child out to parks, play groups, neighbours homes, shopping centres and other events to practice their skills. Go to our checklist for community access and checklist for general safety for more help with this

Accessing early intervention, kindergarten and child care services will also allow for these skills to be further developed. Let the professionals in these centres know about your child’s capabilities and needs. Expose your child to as many different activities as you can so that they begin to understand early what is required of them in these environments.

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