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How to Educate an Intellectually Disabled Child

author image Jennifer Byrne
Jennifer Byrne is a freelance writer and editor specializing in topics related to health care, fitness, science and more. She attended Rutgers University. Her writing has been published by,, Primary Care Optometry News, and EyeWorld Magazine. She was awarded the Gold Award from the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (ASHPE), 2007, and the Apex Award for Publication Excellence.
How to Educate an Intellectually Disabled Child
A child with down syndrome is painting. Photo Credit: DenKuvaiev/iStock/Getty Images

Whether you are a parent or teacher, the task of educating a intellectually disabled child can be daunting. The usual methods of teaching and overseeing classwork might not necessarily apply, and you may encounter frustrating moments in which you feel you are "getting nowhere." According to, it's important to know and understand a child's disability and learn to work within its confines, rather than expecting the disability to go away. Learning a child's strengths and helping her compensate for weaknesses will play a important role in fostering success.

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Step 1

Use visual aids. According to, lengthy verbal instruction and lectures have limited appeal for almost all students, and are particularly ineffective in teaching an intellectually disabled child. Instead, advises incorporating plenty of visual stimuli, such as charts, drawings and models. You can also use charts to track a child's educational or behavioral progress.

Step 2

Use hands-on demonstrations. Intellectually disabled children may have difficulty in grasping abstract concepts, notes, so it's best to find ways to engage them in a sensory way. For example, explaining gravity verbally to an intellectually disabled child will likely be confusing; instead, give him a book and let him drop it. This type of firsthand, visceral understanding is more likely to be retained.

Step 3

Use flexibility with tasks or assignments. For example, if you're a parent helping your child with homework and she's struggling, don't become mired in the details. recommends determining what skill your child is meant to demonstrate with the assignment and adapting the assignment based on her abilities. The goal here, says, is to learn to work with your child's unique strengths to accomplish tasks, even if your methods are unorthodox.

Step 4

Break information or tasks down into smaller parts. Mental advises that intellectually disabled children can become overwhelmed if too much information is presented to them all at once. It's more helpful to break a task or a lesson down into steps. Once the child masters or completes one step, you can move on to the next.

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