The intellectual disabilities of children with Special Needs can be categorized as a mild intellectual disability, a moderate to severe intellectual disability to profound intellectual disability. Intellectual disabilities are cognitive limitations and may cause challenges in social skills, communication skills and personal care. There are many different causes of intellectual disabilities. They could be genetic, chromosomal, childhood illness with lasting effects, problems at birth, illness during pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with intellectual disabilities are usually able to attend a regular school but may require an Individualized Education Plan designed specifically for that child’s educational needs. School work can be modified or adapted allowing for the child to be integrated into the regular classroom although, there may be periods of the school day spent in a resource room with specialized staff such as the Learning Support Teacher, offering one to one support. Although as child with special needs often requires a lot of extra attention and support it is important to focus on a child’s abilities and not as much on what they are unable to do.
Children with intellectual disabilities can have any number of challenges that can affect their learning, behaviour and independence. Their communication skills can be lacking which will affect their ability to express their needs and wants, and can contribute to frustrations and challenging behaviours. They may lack in social skills which will make it challenging to make and keep friendships and interact in the community, thus affecting their ability to be employed. A child with intellectual disabilities may find it challenging to dress and feed themselves and they may need assistance with toileting. Achieving independence with personal care should be encouraged as people with intellectual disabilities are some of the most vulnerable members of society.
In order for children with intellectual disabilities to be productive members of society they should be taught community living skills. Children with mild intellectual disabilities may not require this type of education as they are often able to graduate from high school and gain employment without any additional support. For those with moderate, severe or profound intellectual disabilities community living skills will greatly contribute to their independence. Community living skills are a combination of social and communications skills and some functional academic skills. Some examples of community living skills are learning how to cross the street, how to take a bus and basic money skills and how to interact with the public in an appropriate manner. It’s also important to incorporate work experience or career planning, if appropriate, into the community living education as employment contributes to self worth and an overall sense of acceptance and should highlight a person’s strengths.
Ultimately, the goal for people with Special Needs is respect, acceptance and inclusion. The attitudes towards people with Special Needs has improved since the days when they were sent off to live at residential schools or lock away in hospitals but we are still working towards inclusion in the community. Wider acceptance will come with both public education and with those with Special Needs becoming more visible in the community.