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Tips for First Responders - Delaware

People with Intellectual Disabilities

  • Say:
    • “My name is…I’m here to help you, not hurt you.”
    • “I am a…(name your job)”
    • “I am here because…(explain the situation)”
    • “I look different than my picture on my badge because…(for example, if you are wearing protective equipment)”
  • Show:
    • Your picture identification badge (as you say the above).
    • That you are calm and competent
  • Give:
    • Extra time for the person to process what you are saying and to respond.
    • Respect for the dignity of the person as an equal and as an adult (example: speak directly to the person).
    • An arm to the person to hold as they walk. If needed, offer your elbow for balance.
    • If possible, quiet time to rest (as possible, to lower stress and fatigue).
  • Use:
    • Short sentences.
    • Simple, concrete words.
    • Accurate, honest information.
    • Pictures and objects to illustrate your words. Point to your ID picture as you say who you are, point to any protective equipment as you speak about it.
  • Predict:
    • What will happen (simply and concretely)?
    • When events will happen (tie to common events in addition to numbers and time, for example, “By lunch time…” or “By the time the sun goes down“).
    • How long this will last – when things will return to normal (if you know).
    • When the person can contact or rejoin loved ones (for example: calls to family, re-uniting pets).
  • Ask for/Look for:
    • An identification bracelet with special health information.
    • Essential equipment and supplies (for example: wheelchair, walker, oxygen, batteries, communication devices [head pointers, alphabet boards, speech synthesizers, etc.]).
    • Medication.
    • Mobility aids (for example, assistance or service animal).
    • Special health instructions (for example: allergies).
    • Special communication information (for example, is the person using sign language)?
    • Contact information.
    • Signs of stress and/or confusion (for example, the person might say he or she is stressed, look confused, withdraw or start rubbing their hands together).
    • Conditions that people might misinterpret (for example, someone might mistake Cerebral Palsy for drunkenness).
  • Repeat:
    • Reassurances (for example, “You may feel afraid. That’s ok. We’re safe now.”)
    • Encouragement (for example, “Thanks for moving fast. You are doing great. Other people can look at you and know what to do”).
    • Frequent updates on what’s happening and what will happen next. Refer to what you predicted will happen, for example: “Just like I said before, we’re getting into my car now. We’ll go to…now”.
  • Reduce:
    • Distractions. For example: lower volume of radio, use flashing lights on vehicle only when necessary.
  • Explain:
    • Any written material (including signs) in everyday language.
    • Public address system announcements in simple language.
  • Share:
    • The information you’ve learned about the person with other workers who’ll be assisting the person.

Additional Resources

Alzheimer’s Association Delaware Valley Chapter
1-800-272-3900 (24-Hour Toll-Free)

Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDDS) (Children birth-age 22)
1-866-552-5758 (24-Hour Toll-Free)

Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities (DSAAPD) (Adults age 18+)
Delaware Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC)
1-800-223-9074 (Toll-Free)


University of DelawareCenter for Disabilities Studies