Common challenges faced by developmentally disabled children are as follows:
- Social Isolation: Perceived as slow, these kids are often ostracised by their peers. All it takes is one rumour, and most kids would start avoiding a mentally disabled child. Not just them, even the ones who try to befriend them are ridiculed.
- Bullying: People fear what they can’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer. The inability of children or even adults to understand the needs of a mentally disabled child can breed hatred, fear and contempt. Many kids with disabilities must face ridicule from their peers and are often called unflattering names.
- Low Self Esteem: Consistently poor academic performance can have a negative impact on their psyche. Complex topics might be difficult to grasp for any child. However, poor academic performance in natural subjects where their peers outclass them may make them have a low opinion of themselves.
- Loneliness: Due to social isolation and bullying, many children with mental disabilities suffer from loneliness.
- Medical Problems: Children that suffer from profound mental retardation are likely to have other health complications as well. These could include reduced vision, hearing issues, poor motor function, etc.
Parenting Tips to Help in Raising a Child with an Intellectual Disability
Parents can play a significant role in treating and raising a child with an intellectual disability. Here are a few tips to help build a differently-abled child:
- Encourage Independence: Children with mental disabilities have a slow learning curve. A parent telling their child that he cannot do anything will make him even more dependent and foster low self-esteem. One method to make kids independent is by breaking down complex tasks/ideas into simple ones.
- Follow Up On Academic Progress: Be active at parent-teacher meetings to find out what are the strengths and weaknesses of your child. Parent-teacher conferences can be an excellent forum where you can keep track of your child’s development. It can also be a place where a healthy exchange of ideas can take place.
- Socialise: Many parents limit their child’s interactions with others in a bid to protect them. Then there are others who wish to avoid unpleasant situations. While these are legitimate reasons, making a child socially active would foster a sense of normalcy.
- Network: Taking care of a child with disabilities is difficult for parents. Often there are instances when parents go into depression or bickering takes place between the couple. It can be helpful to know that there are other parents out there who are going through the same ordeal. Networking helps parents a lot, as it not just acts as a support group but also becomes a place where parents can share their experiences and ideas to come up with new ways of raising kids with disabilities.
- Educate Themselves: Raising a mentally challenged child may be difficult, and counselling sessions with experts can help in overcoming these difficulties. Even if you are unable to meet an expert, buy books such as:
- When your Child has Disabilities by M.L. Batshaw
- A Parent’s and Teacher’s Guide to the Special Needs Child by Darrell M. Parker
- Routine: Develop a habit that can be followed by your kid as it can help them feel secure. School can be stressful, and a safe environment at home with a predictable routine can help them feel secure.
- Praise and Reward: Due to the challenges they face every day, low self-esteem issues are typical, and they need constant appreciation and affection to overcome those. Encouragement through a reward system can help boost their self-confidence. However, avoid any negative punishments as it is likely to demotivate them.
- Behaviour Management: Children with mental disabilities may find it difficult to cope with certain situations. In such cases, it is essential that they don’t dwell on their inability to comprehend those things. Diverting their mind would be a good idea in such situations. Something as simple as giving them headphones and making them listen to music would help in diverting their mind.
Many children who have intellectual challenges have in time, learned to overcome their disability and live healthy lives. Even the most difficult cases, children have responded well to proper treatment with many showing a semblance of normalcy.