5 Misconceptions About Adults With Developmental Disabilities (And How You Can Make A Difference)

Although about 22 percent of American adults live with a disability of some sort, many misconceptions still remain about adults with intellectual disabilities. Many people continue to believe these myths and unknowingly hurt their differently ambled peers. If you’re ready to treat adults with intellectual disabilities with the respect and kindness they deserve, be sure to learn about these misconceptions and take steps to make a difference.

Myth 1: They can’t learn new things.

Although people with certain disabilities may learn differently from their neuro-typical peers, adults with disabilities can and do learn throughout their lives. Things like autism, dyslexia, and Down syndrome do not stop people from growing intellectually. It’s important to remember that people from all walks of life learn from the day they are born to the day they pass.

Myth 2: People with disabilities are burdens.

This myth is particularly harmful because it dehumanizes people living with disabilities. Like anyone else, adults with intellectual disabilities have intrinsic value. They have dreams, beliefs, and distinct personalities. While families of people with disabilities may do things differently than other families, they still love and cherish their time together.

Myth 3: All people with developmental disabilities wish they were “normal.”

First and most importantly, the concept of being “normal” can be offensive. No two people are exactly alike, so there is no sense in the concept of normalcy. Secondly, people with developmental disabilities sometimes love the very thing that makes them unique. For example, a person with autism may wish they were neuro-typical, or they may be proud of their differences.

Myth 4: People with developmental disabilities can’t lead productive lives. 

Unfortunately, many employers believe that adults with developmental disabilities cannot be productive at their jobs. Likewise, too many neuro-typical people believe that they cannot befriend someone with a disability. People who believe this misconception are missing out. Many people with disabilities have fulfilling jobs, wonderful friends, and beautiful families.

Myth 5: They are not equal.

Almost all the harmful myths surrounding adults with developmental disabilities stem from one idea: they are not equal to people without disabilities. It’s important for all people in our society to understand that people deserve equal treatment regardless of how they learn, their physical abilities, their appearance, or their emotional needs.

How You Can Help 

If you want a better life for people with intellectual disabilities, there are plenty of things that you can do to help:

  • Refrain from making assumptions about anyone’s abilities or feelings.
  • Don’t shy away from hiring someone with anintellectual disability.
  • Befriend someone who lives with a disability.
  • Treat all people as equals.
  • Correct your peers when they make assumptions or treat someone poorly.
  • Join the Pathways of Pennsylvania team and make a difference in the lives of others. Click here to view open positions and apply today. 


Pathways of Pennsylvania has been serving communities in Pennsylvania since 1981. Every individual has a right to lead a meaningful and positive life, and we are changing lives, one day at a time. Pathways of Pennsylvania is comprised of four companies: Children’s Behavioral Health, Inc., Pathways Community Services, LLC, Raystown Developmental Services, Inc., and The ReDCo Group, Inc.