I’m caring for someone with a neurodevelopmental disability

There is a broad range of neurodevelopmental disabilities, including: intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, seizure disorders, prenatal substance exposure, language and learning disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and brain injuries.

There is also a wide range of ways these conditions can impact a person. In general terms, a neurodevelopmental disability refers to an impairment in physical, learning, language, and/or behavior abilities. These conditions may impact day-to-day functioning and result in the need for specialized care and in some cases around the clock supervision.

Caring for someone with intellectual disabilities

Intellectual disabilities include trouble learning new things, concentrating, remembering, reasoning, communicating, and problem solving. Your family member may require specialized care such as special education, speech therapy or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.

Caregiver tips:

  • Keep language simple – say less and say it slowly; pause between words and phrases to give them time to process what you’ve said
  • Keep questions simple and ask just one at a time
  • Phrase questions so they can be answered with a “yes” or “no” or a nod or shake of the head
  • Be aware of the environment – a noisy and/or crowded environment can affect how much the person can process
  • Use visual supports, such as photographs, posters, line drawings, and symbols
  • Work with your speech-language pathologist to learn more about what low to high tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices exist.

Caring for someone with physical disabilities

If your family member has a physical impairment or disability, they may need help with activities of daily living (ADL), such as bathing, eating, transferring from bed to a chair or wheelchair, toileting, and/or other personal care. Ask your healthcare providers for more information on how specialized therapists like occupational, physical clinicians and speech-language pathologists can help you learn how to safely assist your care recipient.

Caregiver tips:

  • It’s important to determine what personal care you are and aren’t comfortable doing
  • It’s also important to determine if you are physically able to safely transfer your family member without injuring yourself or them
  • Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically do and get help where and when it’s needed. Look into what home care services are available where you live. Home care staff can help with bathing and also teach you tasks like how to turn someone in bed
  • Look into assistive devices such as a walker, chair lift, wheelchair, shower chair, grab bar or portable commode
  • To avoid injury when moving someone: spread your feet shoulder-width apart, bend with your knees and use your leg muscles to help lift
  • Safety-proof your home – remove any objects that could be a trip hazard and make sure furniture is not placed in a way that could obstruct their walker or wheelchair

Get help:

Not sure where to start? Call our 24/7 helpline or talk to us in our live chat to find resources in your community.

Sources:

https://www.mayinstitute.org/autism-aba/developmental-disabilities.html

https://braininstitute.ca/research-data-sharing/neurodevelopmental-disorders

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/developmentaldisabilities/facts.html

https://www.caregiver.org/caring-adults-cognitive-and-memory-impairment

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