Teaching under any circumstances can prove challenging.  Students are individual and varied in both character and developmental level. A teacher has to know learners’ individual abilities and personalities; which makes teaching dynamic and fundamentally stimulating for any professional who enjoys variety and fulfilling engagement.

Teaching adults further requires certain basic adjustments of interaction and approach. And teaching adults who are intellectually disabled requires even more empathy, patience and empathic response. An ID adult is not a child – but at the same time may present a teacher with similar challenges with regard to concentration, behaviour, and knowledge retention.

A teacher of ID adults may be presented with the fact that older students may still struggle with: problem-solving; the ability to communicate effectively; capacity to learn; day-to-day social skills. When there is difficulty with regard to social and communication skills, increased time may be required for coping with new tasks and learning materials.

There may be difficulty in comprehending abstract concepts. Adults with ID are usually seeking to reach a level of greater value in the working world; they will therefore need high-trust  levels of support to help them reach their goals.

Teaching people with an intellectual disability

  • Probably number one on the list of advised methods when teaching an adult with an intellectual disability is the technique of ‘small steps’. Breaking down each learning task into small, easy-to-digest steps can be invaluable. This means introducing tasks as short, individual actions rather than trying to impart the big picture all at once. In this way, you avoid overwhelming the student. Once one step has been mastered, the next step can be introduced.
  • Take time to demonstrate action rather than explain a concept. ID students learn best by performing hands-on tasks, learning most effectively when information is concrete and observed. To reduce frustration and encourage participation, always begin by breaking down each lesson to its simplest, most vital components.
  • Visual aids are highly effective. Charts, pictures and graphs are extremely useful, and the opportunity for immediate feedback will entrench the information. For instance, using charts to map students’ progress can encourage positive, on-task behaviour. Immediate feedback helps to create a connection between their behaviour and the teacher’s response.
  • Music can be a vital part of learning and development for any student, but for those with ID, it can be an especially powerful motivator. Using music alongside concepts or lessons can help people to retain information and helps them to find greater engagement with the subject at hand.

Teaching daily living skills to adults with ID

Promoting daily living skills in adults who have not previously been taught these skills, can provide visible beneficial results; people become more confident and can make significant steps towards independence. Age is no barrier to learning. Adults living at home with parents can be trained to share household chores such as cleaning, preparing meals, doing the washing and ironing, and mowing the lawn. Greater independence will see a ID person able to leave the house alone, catch a bus or train, handle money, pay bills, meet a friend for lunch, and undertake the shopping.

It is important to have realistic expectations and consider what kind of support is most likely to help develop independence. While some ID adults may learn household tasks by watching their parents or carers, others may require more step-by-step methods to help them learn tasks.

ID adults may find it easier to learn tasks if they:

  • Are taught one step at a time to make learning the whole activity easier to learn.
  • Are taught in the place where the task will be done. For example, if a person is learning to iron their clothes, teach them how to iron in the room in which they will usually iron. This helps the person become familiar with the layout of the room, the places where items are kept, the way in which to prepare to begin ironing and how to pack everything away.
  • Engage in regular practice to ensure a sense of comfort and security with the development and maintenance of their new skills.

The story of Sunfield Home

Chris and Lynne Bennett, parents of a young girl with Down Syndrome, pursued their dream of establishing a home for their daughter and other intellectually disabled young adults in the Western Cape. Together with other parents, they founded the Sunfield Home in Wellington, providing a loving and nurturing environment for over 100 residents and day-care adult individuals.

Each individual is screened to evaluate their strengths and allocate activities according to their abilities. A protective workshop has been established where contract work is undertaken, as well as arts and crafts activities. An employment scheme has also been developed and as a result, permanent and successful positions have been found within the surrounding wine and cheese industries.

Find out more about us at: www.sunfieldhome.co.za

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