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Fostering Creativity in Individuals with IDDs

We all have a creative side — individuals with an intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD) are no exception. Creative activities and the arts give people a way to express their feelings in mediums other than words. For those with IDDs, this can be especially helpful in communicating their emotions and thoughts, as conventional communication can present roadblocks and difficulties.

Research shows that there are several other benefits of participating in creative activities for those with IDDs, such as:

  • Improved communication skills

  • Improved fine motor skills

  • Increased self-esteem

  • More practice making choices

  • Increased sense of purpose

In this blog, we'll touch on different activities that help foster creativity in individuals with IDDs, such as:

  • Art

  • Music

  • Theatre


Whether it’s graphic design or watercolors, art offers those with IDDs an opportunity for self expression and communication without restriction or judgment. While verbal communication can be difficult for a number of reasons, art creates a non-verbal way for individuals to process their thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and share them with others. 

Not only is art a valuable communication method, but it’s a great relaxation tool, as well. Because our brains are stimulated by creating art, dopamine and serotonin production can actually increase. This can lead to the reduction of stress levels, which tend to be higher in those with IDDs.

So, next time your loved one with an IDD is having issues communicating with you or is overly stressed, encourage them to pick up a pencil or paint brush!


From listening and appreciating to playing an instrument, music is a great way to foster creativity in those with IDDs. Similar to art, music can be a non-verbal way to express emotion — however, it can also be a verbal, metaphorical way to communicate one’s feelings. For individuals with IDDs, it can be tough to identify exactly what or how they’re feeling. Because of this, it may be easier for them to express their thoughts through lyrics, poetry, or metaphors. 

Playing an instrument can also be beneficial, as it’s a multi-sensory activity that incorporates the visual, kinesthetic, auditory, and tactile systems. Instruments that really help stimulate these senses include:

  • Drums

  • Tambourines

  • Shakers

  • Xylophones

Whether your loved one is a natural songwriter or wants to learn how to play a specific instrument, music is one of the best forms of creative stimulation they can partake in!


Theatre is often one of the most overlooked ways to foster creativity in those with IDDs. While it may not seem like the most disability-sensitive activity, many individuals tend to thrive in this kind of group setting. Some skills they can learn through participating in a theatre group include:

  • Working in groups
    • Putting on a performance requires a lot of collaboration, so learning how to be a team player and work in groups is crucial
  • Managing anxiety
    • Being in front of a crowd or in a room of unfamiliar people can cause anxiety, so theatre can teach your loved one how to cope with and overcome new stressors
  • Identifying emotions and recognizing facial expressions 
    • Theatre can help individuals better identify emotions, facial expressions, and body language
      • If they’re playing a character that’s angry, they will have to learn the correct expressions and tone that coincide with that emotion

If your loved one with an IDD is a movie-buff, musical enthusiast, or could just use help identifying body language, theatre may be the creative outlet for them!

A Safe and Supportive Community

Looking for a place where your loved one with an intellectual or developmental disability will be encouraged to be creative and express themselves? The Baddour Center is dedicated to providing a model residential community for adults with intellectual disabilities and autism in an environment that promotes maximum growth intellectually, spiritually, physically, socially, emotionally and vocationally. Learn more about The Baddour Center’s Performing and Creative Arts program and contact us today to schedule a tour!

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