Early Stimulation for Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Early stimulation is essential for the proper development of children with intellectual disabilities. Today, we'll tell you everything you need to know about this subject.
Early Stimulation for Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Last update: 08 May, 2021

Early stimulation from a young age is essential to work on the problems or difficulties that children with intellectual disabilities may develop. As we’ll see in this article, early stimulation consists of providing kids from 0-6 years old, who have developmental disorders, with a set of interventions to help meet their temporary or permanent needs. In these interventions, different specialists are involved, such as psychologists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists.

Early stimulation for children with intellectual disabilities

One of the groups of children who need early stimulation or early intervention are children with intellectual disabilities. In fact, these children usually have fine and gross motor skills problems. Therefore, we need to help them in different aspects, such as jumping, balancing, climbing ladders, grabbing objects, using pencils, etc.

Early Stimulation for Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Furthermore, certain children with intellectual disabilities suffer from hypotonia. For example, this is the case of children with Down syndrome. In this case, physiotherapy helps them avoid certain movements children use to compensate for their hypotonia. These movements could actually lead to orthopedic and functional problems.

In addition, these children find it difficult to relate to their physical environment. Therefore, we need to help them interact with the world around them, by keeping them interested in it.

Early stimulation helps them develop proper manipulation and exploration levels of the elements that surround them. It also helps them solve little problems they may face in their everyday life.

What’s more, children with intellectual disabilities tend to have problems with social and communicative interactions. That’s why it’s important to work on communication and expressive and comprehensive language skills. 

On the other hand, they may find it difficult to develop their own personal independence. To stimulate autonomy skills, they need to work on imitation and repetition. It’s important to bear in mind that, in order to succeed at this, families shouldn’t be overprotective, and they shouldn’t underestimate their children’s abilities.

Main stimulation areas for children with intellectual disabilities

Bearing in mind all the information provided, we can say that early stimulation must work on four essential areas:

  • Motor.
  • Perceptual-cognitive.
  • Socio-communicative.
  • Autonomy.

There are different specific early stimulation programs to work on the development of these skills. The following are some examples of these specific programs.

Early stimulation programs for children with intellectual disabilities

Early Stimulation for Children with Intellectual Disabilities


A World of Sensations by Elizabeth Fodor

This is a program designed to stimulate development in babies during their first year of life. Their senses and psychomotor skills are stimulated through games. In addition, different exercises are developed, according to the babies’ educational needs and evolution.

The Carolina Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers with Special Needs by Johnson-Martins

This program contains 26 sequences of development, which include social adaptation, gross and fine motor skills. In addition, different activities are carried out according to each sequence and change depending on the babies’ evolution.

Programa de entrenamiento cognitivo para niños pequeños (Cognitive Training Program for Kids) by Saíz and Roman

This program is for children between 5 and 7 years old. It helps children acquire abilities and strategies to solve cognitive and social problems. To do this, it includes 29 interrelated units with different objectives.

About early stimulation for children with intellectual disabilities

These early stimulation programs must be combined with other necessary activities in order to help children develop the skills they struggle with.

That’s why it’s important to identify the individual characteristics and environment of each child. As a result, specialists can set realistic objectives to help children evolve and develop their skills properly.



All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Candel-Gil, I. (2005). Elaboración de un programa de atención temprana. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 3(7), 151-192.
  • Fortes, M. C. y Flores, A. (2003). Intervención Temprana en niños con discapacidad intelectual. En A. Gómez, P. Viguer y M.J. Cantero (Ed.) Intervención temprana: desarrollo óptimo de 0 a 6 años (pp. 241-272). Madrid: Ediciones Pirámide.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.