Take-away for enablers

A child or adult with intellectual disability thrives in a nurturing and an understanding environment, just like anybody else. They have psychological needs, aspirations, emotional ups and downs, revel in experiencing new things and bonding with other people.
These needs are first met at home and then in interactions with the community, be it the teachers, trainers or neighbours.
Majority of parents find it difficult and exhausting to deal with a child having intellectual disability. They want to improve their child’s life but they do not know where to begin. It’s a crisis situation, but when handled properly it can unfold a new dimension leading to the wholesome growth of not only the child but also their own.

It is observed that children blossom when they have family support but don’t progress much where the families aren’t engaged. It demands a twofold action –

  • Coping with one’s grief, frustration and accepting the child.
  • Informing oneself about intellectual disability and its difficulties so that they can work towards a fuller development of their child.

Also see: What can families do and What can teachers do

What Families Can Do

Learn about intellectual disability. It will help you in understanding the behaviour and learning difficulties of your child. When your child develops speech, talk to him, encourage him to speak. Do not give up, keep working on his language development. Constructive play activities are important. Help him to develop interest in playing with toys, drawing and colouring, listening to music & T.V. Play with the child and make learning fun.

  • Enable your child to learn simple vocational skills and use them to work and earn to whatever extent possible.
  • Simplify tasks so that he can learn better. Break them into smaller and simpler steps e.g. washing hands can be broken down into opening the tap, taking soap, rubbing hands, washing away the soap with water, wiping with towel etc.
  • Appreciate even a small achievement to encourage further learning and initiative.
  • Be patient. Perseverance on your part will be extremely important for his progress.
  • Give as many successful experiences as possible. Use your judgement, pick up the skills, which he is ready to learn and teach him that skill in smaller steps. Keep encouraging him to work.
  • Take care of his feelings and emotions. You may see certain undesirable behaviour that may take time to break. He may keep doing things which you tell him not to do. Caring attitude, firmness and patience will bring changes in this behaviour.
  • Treat your child just like any other child. He needs to be loved, recognised, praised, disciplined and encouraged to learn various tasks needed for everyday life.
  • Overcome your embarrassment. It is very harmful for you as well as your child.
  • Respect and value your child and others will follow. We may not be able to change others but we can definitely try to change our own attitude and behaviour.
  • Take your child with you whenever you are going out. It can be going to market, to meet friends or to a social function etc. It is only when you take him to public places that he will learn appropriate social behaviour.
  • Remain engaged with normal life like going out, entertaining, meeting people and attending to one’s own interests and hobbies.
  • Promote integration of children with disabilities in regular schools and demand for such a facility.
  • Find out the skills your child is learning at school. Find ways to apply those skills at home. For example, if the teacher is going over a lesson about money, take your child to the supermarket and help him count the money to pay for your groceries.
  • Find opportunities in your community for social activities, such as scouts, recreation centres, sports, and so on. These will help your child build social skills as well as to have fun.
  • Talk to other parents whose children have an intellectual disability. Parents can share practical advice and emotional support.
  • Take pleasure in your beautiful one. He is a treasure. Learn from your child too. Those with intellectual disabilities have a special light within—let it shine.

What Teachers Can Do

If I cannot learn the way you teach me,
teach the way I can learn!

Teachers can do wonders especially if they are willing to incorporate the above. When teaching children with special needs they need to understand the child first and then the special needs. It is important to know that each child goes through the same stages of learning and development; only the pace may be different.

Related audio 1

It’s important to understand and build on the capability of the person. When it comes to understanding an adult with intellectual disability we stumble. There is a knowledge barrier and no models to follow. Teachers need to accept the person and focus on the strengths and life stage needs of the adult with intellectual disability. Then plan a programme based on these facts.

  • Understand the current level of functioning in comprehension, conceptual learning, recognition of body urges, feeling of oneself and others and daily self- care skills.
  • Choose goals for training for every student.
  • Partner with parents/family members in understanding family expectations and guide them to realistic expectations.
  • Talk to parents/family members about evolving capacity throughout life as it happens with everyone.
  • Share the importance of discipline and good habits with family.
  • Use the method of task analysis in teaching.
  • Stress on specific learning outcomes as well as emotional well being.
  • Engineer successful experiences and boost self-confidence.
  • Go to the root of behavioural difficulties as they arise from emotional difficulties and undesirable habits.
  • Work with the system to foster inclusion.
  • Look at ways to adapt the curriculum as per the child’s needs.
  • There will be times when you might need to modify the curriculum to encourage the child to learn while having fun.
  • Continue to stress on conceptual learning via hands on application as people with intellectual disability understand our world through concepts