Special Needs

How to Raise a Child with Intellectual Disabilities



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Children with intellectual disabilities should be raised, basically, as though they were children without disabilities. Children strive to live up to a parent's expectation as long as the expectations are within reason. No parent should decide how little his child is capable of until he has given the child a chance to do the best he can. The intellectually challenged child simply means that learning will be a challenge for him, not that he is defective or to be treated as if he could never learn to take care of himself.

Many parents with children of normal intellectual abilities and one child who is intellectually challenged, will raise their children with two sets of discipline rules and lower expectations for the learning disabled child. This is an injustice for both children. If an average five year-old is punished for playing around in the family room, causing a vase to fall and break, while his eight year-old brother, who is learning disabled, gets a pass, the average child will grow up resenting his brother. The learning disabled brother will come to realize that his misdeeds go unpunished. It may not be a big deal when the child is young, but a spoiled child with the intellectual IQ of an eight-year-old who is a six-foot, 200 pound adult can hurt someone when he has a temper tantrum. Discipline must be started at the same time a parent would discipline the average child.

Learning disabled children can easily learn the concept of cause and effect. If she yells and screams in church, mother will take her to the back and explain, "No yelling in church." The mother can choose whether to spank her responsibly or sit out the rest of the service in back with her child. After three or four experiences such as this one, the child will learn that screaming equals going to the back, which is no fun. It isn't necessary for the child to fully understand why an experience is unpleasant in order to obey. The average six-year-old may not understand why he can't hold his baby sister with her head unsupported. For the time being, he just needs to do what mom and dad tells him or he will not get to hold his sister.

Another thing that parents forget is the fact that their twenty-five year old daughter with the mind of a four year-old has been four for twenty-one years. Even a four year-old can learn much in twenty-one years. For the most part, parents should raise their children that has a learning challenge as though they were just another average child. A parent should not expect a child with an IQ of fifty-five to figure out a complex set of rules to properly use a microwave without assistance. However, this same child can be taught to re-heat pizza by pushing the button that has a picture of a slice of pizza on it.

Learning challenged children should be taught toileting skills, how to brush their teeth properly, how to clean and comb their own hair. They should be able to dress themselves and express hunger, thirst, cold, and pain. They should be encouraged to try new things. A child may have a special ability to do something that average children are not able to do. The child may enjoy painting and even be an excellent painter.

Discipline, academics, life and social skills, as well as simple work skills, should be taught to children with intellectual disabilities. Parents need not point out the fact of their child's inability to grasp new concepts quickly. It soon becomes apparent without announcement. Most children simply adjust the way they play with the challenged child as though they were playing with a younger sibling. Life goes on and will do so smoothly if you raise your child as though he had all the potential in the world. It is definite that your child will learn less if he is never given the opportunity to learn.

More about this author: Barbara Stanley

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