Helping Your Intellectually or Emotionally Challenged Child

Mental and learning disabilities have multiple causes and diagnosis and can range from slight to complete debilitation. You can't control your child's behavior or perceptions because of his diminished capacities, but you can teach him coping skills and adaptations. Generally, your teaching should be under the direction of medical and psychiatric professionals with experience in your child's particular problem area.

Understanding Your Child's Frames of Reference

Your child does not perceive the world in the same way you do. If you understand what's going on inside his brain, you will be more able to help him.

Time is one of the most difficult concepts for a special needs child to process. A few minutes can seem like hours and a few hours like minutes. Use calendars, digital clocks, and wind-up timers to track days, hours, and minutes. Work with your child to help him figure out what is possible in a minute, five minutes, or an hour. Help him see how time works and why it's important to pay attention to it.

Another common problem is understanding sequencing — why some things have to be first and others follow. When you teach your child a new skill, demonstrate all of the steps. For instance, in assembling a salad: First, you take the ingredients out of the refrigerator and cupboards (you may have to be even more basic and teach what refrigerators and cupboards are for). Then, go through the steps of breaking up the lettuce, slicing the tomatoes, and dicing the onions. Toss the ingredients together and transfer them to a serving bowl and place the bowl on the table.


There are special needs children awaiting international adoption as well as domestic adoption. According to the agency Adoption Associates, 70 percent of the children waiting to be adopted from China have special needs.

Repeat this process for a couple of days in a row, then have him toss the ingredients, transfer them to a serving bowl, and place the bowl on the table. Gradually, move backward until he's able to take the ingredients out of the refrigerator, progress to breaking up the lettuce, and so on, and completing the process by putting the bowl on the table.

Some children need constant repetition before they can master simple reading or math skills. Work closely with your child's teacher, so you can reinforce at home what's being taught in school.

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