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Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.
Caring for Our People with Disabilities & Chronic Illness

"Making life better!"


Educational, social service and disability organizations all provide services that assist people with mental retardation in living a fulfilling life. Services are available beginning in early childhood, with birth to three programs. Children with mental retardation always qualify for special education and the school should always, with parent involvement develop an IEP (individual education plan) for the student. This plan should be focused on making sure the child is getting his individual needs met. In the special education workshop of Caring for Our People training, you will be provided a great deal of information on IEPs. A key point is that, as much as possible, students with mental retardation should receive needed special attention without being isolated from other students without disabilities.

This inclusion is perhaps the most important thing to remember when working with someone with mental retardation. They must keep interacting and living life as any other human being. They need the practice, role models and the acceptance in every day settings to learn social skills and to develop the self-confidence to feel comfortable living and working in the community just like anyone else. Beginning in middle school, vocational rehabilitation staff members should be working with the schools to develop a plan for students to become full members of the community as adults, with plans for additional education, jobs and living as independently as possible.

Patience is a virtue and this is especially true when working with individuals with mental retardation. Every day skills are learned step by step. Family, friends and teachers can all work teach social rules, self-care (dressing, teeth brushing), can play educational games with children, and help teenagers and adults engage in chores around the house - whether they want to or not - just like all the rest of us. Staff members as well as loved ones must remember to start slow, be patient and simple, and remember that a disability should never be a reason to stop and give up.

There are effective programs for working with people with mental retardation at all levels of severity , and including for those who also have physical disabilities, emotional problems, visual or hearing impairments . Assistive technology for people with physical disabilities, with or without mental retardation, is discussed later in this workshop in the module on resources. That same module will also give you links for agencies and programs specifically serving people with mental retardation.

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