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Intellectual Disabilities

This unit helps students understand that Intellectual Disabilities affect the brain and that each individual with an Intellectual Disability is unique.  Students learn that people with intellectual disabilities can have multiple challenges, including language, academic, social and motor skills, and activities of daily living, but also have a variety of interests and strengths.

2 girls in science class

Key themes:

  • People with intellectual disabilities can do many things, but it sometimes may take longer to learn how or require more assistance.
  • People with intellectual disabilities have hopes, dreams and goals like everyone else and are able to live very productive lives.
  • Students are encouraged to use modern language and be a friend and an ally.
  • Technology is playing an increasingly important role in enabling people with intellectual disabilities to do everyday tasks and to function more independently.
  • People with intellectual disabilities can take part in lots of activities, sometimes with accommodations.

Information is presented about the range of strengths and challenges of people with Intellectual Disabilities, and suggestions for how to be inclusive and an ally are covered. Students learn that although an Intellectual Disability may affect the way someone plays and interacts, they still want to be included and to have friends.

The guest speaker does so many interesting things and likes animals, just like me!


Program implementation is flexible and can be adapted for a remote, hybrid or in-person classroom. A typical 1 ½ to 2-hour session for fifth graders includes: an informational video, up to three hands-on activities and a talk by a speaker with an Intellectual Disability, who describes their life experiences and answers students’ questions. Recommended grade level: 5th grade.

Sample Questions from Fifth Graders

  • What is most challenging for you?
  • When you worked at Fenway, did you meet any players?
  • Where would you like to travel to next and why?  ​​
  • As a kid, how did you meet other kids with Down syndrome?
  • What was your favorite play to perform in?
  • Who is the most important political person you ever met?
  • Did you always want to be a public speaker?
  • What is the most fun thing you have ever done?
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