People with Cognitive Disabilities


  • 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)


  • Your picture identification badge (as you say the above).
  • That you are calm and competent


  • 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).


  • 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.


  • 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…” “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).


  • 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”.


  • Distractions. For example: lower volume of radio, use flashing lights on vehicle only when necessary.


  • Any written material (including signs) in everyday language.
  • Public address system announcements in simple language.


  • The information you’ve learned about the person with other workers who’ll be assisting the person.