Dating and Relationships for People with ID


ID datingDating is challenging.  For individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) this is no different.  Individuals with IDD experience unique challenges that far exceed the standard barriers of dating.  Often times the choice to date is not one made by the individual, rather it is made by staff or administration.  There are many challenges that agencies face when approaching this subject.  With that being said, I am a firm believer that knowledge is power.  If an individual expresses the interest in such a relationship, then we as providers and caretakers, should provide the fund of knowledge needed for that person to be successful. 

Some topic areas to focus on include:

  • Who is an appropriate dating partner & who is not
  • How to read signals & judge whether the interest is mutual
  • How to ask someone out on a date
  • How to turn down a date
  • How to handle rejection
  • What sexual feelings are
  • How to work through problems in a relationship
  • What to do when a relationship is not working
  • Consent

Providing a basic starting point, no matter how “advanced” we think people are leaves no stone unturned.  Also, given the times we must embrace technology.  Individuals and their support staff must be familiar with the different avenues of dating that are out there.  Sites like are geared specifically towards individuals with disabilities.  Others such as Plenty of Fish or Match provide a more mainstream opportunity. 

In closing, as a system we need to change the way we think about sexuality and intellectual disability.  Having meaningful relationships, whether sexual in nature or platonic are a basic human right.  The staff that are in the unique positions to support individuals with IDD need to understand this and become more supportive of the idea.  Philadelphia Coordinated Health Care can support agencies and offers trainings around topics of sexuality and healthy relationships.