CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JAN. 17, 2015
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Tips for Working with Mentally Challenged Children

Working with mentally handicapped children can be a trying time not only for the kids themselves but also you. These children have to deal with the social issues resulting from ridicule, mockery and bullying as well as the psychological repercussions in the form of frustrations, anger, confusion and frustration. Chances are that they may vent these emotions on you making it harder to work effectively with these children. A special approach to working with these kids, therefore, is necessary to enable them acquire knowledge and live a fulfilling life just like other children.

Understand the kid

The key to a fruitful learning experience for you and your mentally challenged student is to understand his mental disability and how to cope with it. An online research will point you in the right direction in which you will realize that mentally handicapped kids can acquire and retain knowledge albeit using a different approach from others. Evaluate how the child relates with fellow family members and friends to get a feel of how it would be to relate to him. Understanding him better prepares you for any issues that might crop up.

Show, not instruct

When teaching a mentally handicapped kid, it is better to demonstrate to him how to perform the required activity as he can learn by watching and imitating you. As advised by Tammy Reynolds from Mentalhelp.net, long-winding verbal instructions as well as abstract lectures will only distract intellectually disabled kids in contrast to a ‘hands-on’ approach that allows them to retain information. For example, a lesson on making paper planes could involve practical demonstrations by you while the children watch and learn. You could then ask them to make their own planes while guiding them through the process.

Use visual aids

Visual aids, such as, charts, graphs and pictures are efficient teaching resources to use when working with children with intellectual disabilities. Children exposed to this learning environment are able to better comprehend what behaviors are expected of them as well as their progress. Pictures, for instance, are effective in helping them master a certain activity; for example, a comic book showing them the preferred sanitation practices. Charts could be your teaching tool to positively reinforce appropriate behavior for the children.

Be Gentle

Love is a core ingredient when trying to change the behavior of a mentally challenged kid for the better. Be gentle towards them and reward them with gifts whenever they reach a milestone in their learning exercise; Accounting Education reports that rewards motivate them more than other children. Avoid giving hard punishment to them when they make a mistake as this will only discourage them from putting more effort into learning. It is imperative you remember that your duties involve social work as well as teaching.

Positivity should radiate from you at all times so that it can rub off on your mentally handicapped student and influence his behavior. You also need to be patient because many are the times things will not go according to plan. Set realistic goals and remember to celebrate every achievement with your student, no matter how trivial it may be.

 

Image source: DOCTORS.am

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