The following article will guide you about how to train a mentally retarded child.
Having outlined a few principles of educating and teaching the mentally retarded child, it may be pertinent, here, to write a few suggestions for parents.
It must be remembered that most mentally retarded children will remain at home; there are hardly more than 25 institutions in the whole country and these can help not more than a few hundred children. And, even if, there were more institutions, parents should understand their children who are mentally handicapped. They have to develop right and positive attitudes towards their bringing up and their rehabilitation.
When it is suspected that a certain child is mentally retarded, we should get him medically checked up for physical, sensory and neurological defects. We should follow the advice of the doctor regarding sensory or physical defects or malnutrition. If there is a child guidance or psychological centre near about, it is desirable to have his degree of mental retardation ascertained. This knowledge will determine, to a great extent the kind and degree of his rehabilitation possibilities.
Again, parents must accept the fact that their child is mentally retarded. They need to face to problem courageously and with determination rather than blame or curse their fate. The child needs a sense of basic security. He can have it only through genuine acceptance and affection. Parents should realise that the mentally retarded child may not reach the standards of a normal child, although he may learn to do things, according to his limited capacities.
It is no use wasting our time, energy and financial resources in a vain attempt to have the child completely cured, nor it is of any pause for rents losing temper or criticise or find fault with each other. This only adds to unhappiness of the family. What the neighbours say should not worry them. The sense of shame helps neither the parents nor the child.
That the mentally retarded child needs love and affection goes without saying, but this should not amount to something overprotection or indulgence. Parents need to be sympathetic, but firm and consistent in their disciplinary demands. This will help in developing useful habits and attitudes in the child. Let us provide him with adequate play facilities – an open space where he can run about, and toys which are large, attractive, strong and safe.
Often, parents forget that such a child learns and develops at his own pace. It is no use pushing him beyond his capacities. He is a slow learner and that too in limited areas. It is no use comparing his achievements with those of other children who are normal and not handicapped. They should remember that it is his individual mental growth that counts and not the standard rate.
The mentally retarded child can be encouraged to do various household chores such as washing the clothes, doing the bed, house – decoration, cooking, sewing, simple-sewing, cutting, needlework or plain-knitting and looking after domestic pets. He should be praised for his accomplishment whatever it may be.
This will give him a sense of achievement. In order that his vocabulary may increase, and his powers of observation and reproduction improve, we should give him ample opportunities of seeing things, places and persons such as shops, playground, post-office, exhibitions, films, dramas, dances and historical buildings.