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How to Educate an Intellectually Disabled Child

By Jennifer Byrne ; Updated October 23, 2017

Whether you are a parent or teacher, the task of educating a intellectually disabled child can be daunting. The usual methods of teaching and overseeing classwork might not necessarily apply, and you may encounter frustrating moments in which you feel you are "getting nowhere." According to Education.com, it's important to know and understand a child's disability and learn to work within its confines, rather than expecting the disability to go away. Learning a child's strengths and helping her compensate for weaknesses will play a important role in fostering success.

Use visual aids. According to MentalHelp.net, lengthy verbal instruction and lectures have limited appeal for almost all students, and are particularly ineffective in teaching an intellectually disabled child. Instead, MentalHelp.net advises incorporating plenty of visual stimuli, such as charts, drawings and models. You can also use charts to track a child's educational or behavioral progress.

Use hands-on demonstrations. Intellectually disabled children may have difficulty in grasping abstract concepts, notes MentalHelp.net, so it's best to find ways to engage them in a sensory way. For example, explaining gravity verbally to an intellectually disabled child will likely be confusing; instead, give him a book and let him drop it. This type of firsthand, visceral understanding is more likely to be retained.

Use flexibility with tasks or assignments. For example, if you're a parent helping your child with homework and she's struggling, don't become mired in the details. Education.com recommends determining what skill your child is meant to demonstrate with the assignment and adapting the assignment based on her abilities. The goal here, Education.com says, is to learn to work with your child's unique strengths to accomplish tasks, even if your methods are unorthodox.

Break information or tasks down into smaller parts. Mental Help.net advises that intellectually disabled children can become overwhelmed if too much information is presented to them all at once. It's more helpful to break a task or a lesson down into steps. Once the child masters or completes one step, you can move on to the next.

Tips

Set your expectations in accordance with the child's disability. For example, Mental Help.net suggests that a child with a mild intellectual disability could be taught to use a recipe, whereas a moderately challenged child might be taught to make a grocery list. A severely disabled child might simply be taught to communicate hunger.

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