An intellectual disability is usually seen as occurring if the problem has existed during childhood, rather than happening later in life. This means that an adult who has a car accident and suffers an injury which affects their IQ and cognitive functioning will be categorized as having an acquired brain injury rather than an intellectual disability.
People with an intellectual disability have difficulties in:
- understanding complex information.
- using logical thinking to plan ideas and solve problems.
- following directions and instructions, particularly those which involve multiple steps or complex information.
- using judgment and abstract thought.
As there is a wide range in IQ scores which can lead to a student being categorized as having an intellectual disability, it also follows that there is a wide range of learning materials and teaching and learning activities which will be needed to meet the needs of individual learners within a special needs classroom or in a mainstream setting. Often students with an intellectual disability will manage better if they receive teaching interventions which are individually planned and targeted at specific goals and learning needs.
Try these tips for working with students with an intellectual disability:
- use concrete items and examples to explain new concepts and provide practice in existing skill areas.
- role model desired behaviors and clearly identify what behaviors you expect.
- plan ahead with your activities.
- use appropriate positive communication.
- do not overwhelm a student with multiple or complex instructions.
- use strategies such as chunking, backward shaping and role modeling as helpful teaching approaches.
- be explicit about what it is you want a student to do.
- learn about the needs and characteristics of your student, but do not automatically assume they will behave the same way today as they did yesterday.
- ask for their input about how they feel they learn best and help them to be as in control of their learning as possible.
- put skills in context so there is a reason for learning tasks.
- involve families and significant others in learning activities, planning and special days, as well as in informing you about the needs of their young person.