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Children with intellectual disabilities usually display problems in a number of areas: the ability to learn, reason, make decisions, and solve problems; as well as daily life areas such as being able to communicate effectively, interact with others, and take care of oneself.

Children may display intellectual disability in any of the following ways:

 Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking late

  • Talking late or having trouble with talking
  • Slow to master things like potty training, dressing, and feeding themselves
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Inability to connect actions with consequences
  • Difficulty with problem-solving or logical thinking.

Causes of intellectual disability will mostly include:

 Genetic conditions: Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome.

Problems during pregnancy: alcohol or drug use, malnutrition, or certain infections which may affect foetal brain development.

Problems during childbirth: If a baby is deprived of oxygen during childbirth or born extremely premature, this may result in intellectual disability.

Illness or injury: Infections like meningitiswhooping cough, or the measles can lead to intellectual disability. Severe head injury, near-drowning, extreme malnutrition, infections in the brain, exposure to toxic substances such as lead, and severe neglect or abuse can also cause it.

None of the above: In two-thirds of all children who have intellectual disability, the cause is unknown.

Permanent housing for adults and some children with intellectual disabilities usually comes in the form of licensed Care Centres, Assisted Living Facilities or Group Homes. These homes are sometimes also called “Homes of Safety”. The residents of these homes have chronic disabilities that prevent them from being able to function without guidance and protection.

These various facilities provide highly structured environments that are well-placed and experienced to cater for intellectually disabled children, and provide them with security and happiness, and a stimulating learning environment. Children who usually live in these homes can include: persons with Autism or Down Syndrome or Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Making the decision to home your child

The wide variety of intellectual disabilities that can affect children means that many are not always able to stay with family members because of the constant care they require on a daily basis. Deciding whether or not an adult or a child with intellectual disabilities should move from the family home into a supported, community-based residence can be a wrenching experience.

Aside from a desire for their loved one to live a fulfilling and independent a life as possible, mom and dad must plan for the time when they will no longer be around. It’s likely that, at some point, an individual with significant disabilities will need to live in a professionally run support home, and making that transition while parents are alive will be easier for them.

Those parents who have decided to care for their intellectually disabled child at home, are to be admired – and many do an admirable job; but there may come a time when the arrangement can no longer be sustained – either because the child’s needs become too concentrated and time-consuming, or because the circumstances of the family change – such as the arrival of a new baby, a relocation, or the death of one of the parents – a situation which would bring about a change of lifestyle and / or financial constraints.

Transition Tips:

It’s a good idea to tour the various choices of home available. Take the opportunity to attend any social activities, or even arrange an overnight stay. It’s advisable to ease your child into the concept of a different lifestyle, but one in which they can identify and feel comfortable. These visits will also give the child a chance to get to know the staff, so that when they stay over for a weekend or so, they will feel among friends.

In preparation for your child’s move, prepare a list of information about your child’s likes and needs. This is important for staff members to get to know your child and to appreciate what may cause an upset, and how to handle the child if such an upset should occur.

How you decide on visiting arrangements may be dependent on the child and his or her adaptive capacity. It’s a good idea not to visit for at least two weeks, to give the child time to acclimatise. You can also arrange to take the child home for alternate weekends or on certain days. Once your visits do not present a disruptive experience for your child, you can decide how you would like to organise your visits and how much time you need to spend with your child.

It will also be an emotional process for any siblings who may be attached to their ID brother or sister. Very often they may have played a substantial part in the caring process, so they must be allowed to participate in the visiting schedule and, if old enough, be partly responsible for visits if the parents become unable to attend to this vital function.

Any move will likely be difficult for the entire family. But keep reminding yourself that this increased independence is in your child’s best interest. This is a situation in which a parent really must separate head from heart.

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