Working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be a challenge, but it’s a rewarding one if people are willing to put in the work to develop traits that will set them up for success. When we consider prospective employees at Little City’s Therapeutic Day School, we look for these attributes.

What is the most important trait somebody should have when working with people with intellectual and

developmental disabilities at Little City’s Therapeutic Day School?

Passion is one of the most important traits a Little City employee should have. They have to be passionate about this work and this population. This is a hard job that not everyone can do. There will be hard days, so you need to have passion to get you through them. A passion for helping and serving children with intellectual and developmental disabilities will help drive the work you do with these kids. You need to have an eagerness to work with these children to get them to a place where they can do more activities independently. This helps them self-regulate and self-advocate.

What are some other traits that prospective professionals working with people with intellectual and

developmental disabilities should have?


We need staff who understand the different goals of students, our classes and the school overall. Students have Individualized Education Plans (IEP), and the goal of the staff and students is that the students meet their IEP goals. When everyone is working towards the same goal, it is easy to work as a team.


We want staff to be able to have fun with students and with other staff. We want people who enjoy working with this population and make learning fun. This job can be stressful, and there are days when you may be in crisis, so staff need to find joy and be able to laugh at themselves.


There are going to be tough days when plans do not work and you might feel like a student is regressing, but you have to be determined to follow through on plans and your training. Many of the students that come to our school have had so many people give up on them. Staff must be determined to not do the same, even when things get hard.


Having patience while working with this population is imperative because it helps us stay empathetic. Our students will engage in unsafe behaviors, and staff must remain patient and not take it personally when a student goes into crisis. Patience fosters a growth environment as well.


Empathy helps us build strong rapport and relationships with our students. Typically, those staff who are able to empathize have strong coping strategies and are able to self-regulate. Most of our students struggle with having appropriate coping strategies and the ability to self-regulate. Staff need to be able to model this for them and understand developing these skills doesn’t happen overnight.

What is a trait people might not recognize as being important for working with people with intellectual and

developmental disabilities?

Creativity is an important trait for staff to have when working with this population. The students with intellectual and developmental disabilities we work with are typically not like the students you read about in education classes, and many of the stereotypes you have learned that are supposed to work with this population don’t always pay off. 

You have to be creative in your proactive and reactive approaches to different behaviors or crises. We have to be creative when teaching our students different skills such as math, reading, social skills, play, etc. You have to be creative when finding things that motivate our students. Sometimes our kids don’t want to work for a break or the iPad, so you have to build a relationship with the student to figure out what motivates them.

What are some of the most common hesitations people have about working with people with intellectual and

developmental disabilities?

Understanding: Many people think this population is unpredictable, but in reality, if you know and understand the student, you can predict how they are going to react in certain situations. If you can’t predict it, you can at least be prepared. We strive to make sure our staff feel prepared and trained. 

Training: We do a lot of training at the school so that staff feel confident and comfortable doing their job and supporting our students. When staff are confident and comfortable, we see a decrease in students’ maladaptive behaviors and an increase in their skill acquisition. We also notice that staff are happier at work when they feel prepared, trained and confident.

Interested in working with Little City? Visit our careers page to see what opportunities await you.