Hi all, today we will be taking the second in the series of three on the above topic, we will consider – Children with Intellectual Impairments. These are defined as children who are unable to learn or develop skills at the same rate as their peers because of problems related to the brain. They usually display lateness in attaining developmental milestones and severity can range from mild to profound. It affects their ability to learn, take decisions, solve problems and their interactions with people. Intellectual impairments cover cases of Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral palsy etc. Let’s take the case of Brian.

Ruby and Jim looked forward with excitement reminiscent of young couples, to the birth of their second baby, a brother for Sue who was now two years old. Brian was born a lovely dimpled baby boy, a pleasure to behold. Brian was such a content happy baby with no signs whatsoever of any impairment or disability. To all intents and purposes he walked and even started mouthing simple words until …disaster struck. One day, Ruby returned from work to find a silent and withdrawn Brian. Attempts to cuddle and  hug him to elicit a response were rebuffed and his behavior got stranger with each passing day. Brian now lived in a cocoon of silence, oblivious of all external stimuli. The silence would only be interrupted by fits of rage characterised by head banging and biting. The concerned parents visited the paediatrician who queried Autism Spectrum Disorder (more often referred to as Autism) and referred them to an experienced Developmental Paediatrician – Dr. Kessington. After a thorough analysis involving a careful observation of Brian and his behavioral pattern a diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) was confirmed and treatment commenced.

To ensure that Brian lives a purposeful and fulfilled life, Ruby and Jim attended counselling sessions arranged by Dr. Kessington where they were taught the following ”coping skills” to enable them lovingly nurture Brian into adulthood and enable him live in fulfillment. They were advised as follows:

  1. “Do not alienate Brian from his biological family and sibling. This is important for his emotional well being and development. A show of love and understanding is required to help him deal with his inner frustrations which are revealed through his tantrums.
  2. Enrol him in a school that offers special education for impaired children. A few of them exist in the country and it is hoped that the different tiers of Government will see a need to establish and fund such schools as time progresses.
  3. Get him involved in community/ leisure activities and hobbies so that he learns to relate with other members of society. Brian may exhibit talent in sports, music, the arts etc. Celebrate his achievements, however little they may seem.
  4. Educate family and friends regarding his challenge to foster a better understanding and acceptance of his person.
  5. Do not discriminate between Sue and Brian but show both love and ensure that there is mutual love between them.
  6. Teach Sue to love her younger brother and make her understand that he is different.
  7. Take time to take care of your health and well being and interact with other parents in similar circumstances. Shared experiences are helpful.
  8. Monitor and track Brian’s progress at school by talking with the school authorities.
  9. Most importantly show him love, understanding and support through it all.
  10. Take time out for breaks.”

Ruby and Jim followed the advice received and over the years were able to discover Brian’s passion for football and art. They channeled his energies and encouraged him at these two activities. Today, Brian at sixteen currently has paintings featured in some art exhibitions and plays football with a local team. There is always ABILITY in DISABILITY. Look for the gold!

Some Information about Autism:

ASD has no single known cause and the symptoms vary from mild to severe. The symptoms usually play out in communication and behavioral inadequacies and include some of the below listed: Failure to respond to name call, preference for lone play, poor eye contact and lack of facial expression, delayed speech or no speech, Abnormal voice tone or rhythm, limited repetitive patterns of behavior, repetitive movements e.g. spinning, rocking etc, activities of self harm e.g head banging, biting etc, problem with co-ordination, fixations on objects or activities, walking on toes among others.

Male children are more likely to have autism than females with a ratio of 4:1.

Where a child has obvious delays in language skills and social interactions, it is advised that you contact a paediatrician. Treatment options exist. Although children usually do not outgrow ASD symptoms, they can learn to function well given the right PARENTAL LOVE and GUIDANCE.

Let’s catch up again next week as we consider children with physical impairment.



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