Social interactions for adolescence with ID

For the teenager with an Intellectual Disability(ID) interacting with others may be quite simple or it could be very challenging and complex. Depending on the degree of ID and whether or not the teen has oral language, uses sign language or uses an aided language display, interacting with others will need to be addressed. If the teen has an associated learning disability such as Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) then there could be further challenges in their ability to interact with others.


The added complexity of hormonal changes through the teenage years also can make it difficult for teens to interact. They can feel awkward in social situations and changing emotions could mean that they are unclear as to how they should be interacting and responding.

Some things to think about to help a teen to manage these interactions are:

  • To what degree is their oral language easily understood by others
  • To what degree is the aided language display or sign language easily understood by others
  • Is the aided language display transportable to other environments in which the teen will access
  • What level of conversational skills does the teen have
  • Does the teen recognise emotional changes in themselves and others
  • Do they know how to regulate their emotions
  • Does the teen understand what bullying is and how to manage this
  • Is there a social skills group available where the teen could learn all these skills

When thinking about the teen’s ability to interact with others use everyday social situations as ‘teaching moments’ to acknowledge their positive interactions so they understand the requirements of their interactions. When the interactions go wrong also use these as ‘teaching moments’ for how things could be improved next time.

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