Intellectual Disability

What is intellectual disability?

Kids with intellectual disability have challenges with thinking skills, such as reasoning, problem solving, planning, and judgement (e.g. understanding and predicting risks). They can also have difficulties with academic and everyday skills (e.g. reading, writing, telling the time, doing maths, and handling money). They may find it harder to learn, which means they need additional time and support to learn new skills.

Kids with intellectual disability often experience communication and social challenges. They may appear to be socially immature for their age, they are likely to be more easily overwhelmed when given instructions with multiple steps, and they may find it challenging to understand body language (e.g. facial expression, gestures). Kids with intellectual disability can find it more challenging to regulate and control their emotions and behaviour. They may tire easily. A number of kids may also have challenges with emotions and behaviour such as anxiety (worry and fearfulness), sadness and irritability (doesn’t want to try and participate) and attention problems such as being restless, over-active, distractible, disorganised and experience difficulties with concentrating.

What might be some challenges in the dance class?

  • Children with intellectual disability can experience some challenges with how quickly they can think and their ability to understand. They could misunderstand instructions if they are given a lot of information at once.
  • Kids may take longer to learn new skills. They are likely to benefit from clearly structured sessions with consistent routines.
  • They can be very social and friendly, and like talking and spending time with other people. However, sometimes, they might stand too close or be overfamiliar with people. It can be helpful to be clear about what is and isn’t appropriate when talking and interacting with others.

Develop routines and use visual aids

  • Have a consistent routine: Set a lesson routine that is consistent each time the student attends classes. Routines help set up behavioural expectations. Students often feel more secure and less anxious when they know what to expect.
  • Provide a supportive environment: Students might lack confidence when participating in dance classes and may feel concerned that they will not be able to keep up. Praise efforts and encourage participation.
  • Use visual instructions and visual schedule: Display a list of class activities on the wall or an easel.  This helps students understand what they will be doing first, second, third, and so on. Include words and/or pictures that show the activity sequence. Mark off each activity on the schedule as it is completed so students track progress and can feel a sense of accomplishment.

Think about how you communicate

  • Reduce background noise when giving instructions: Minimising background noise and distractions while giving instructions can help all kids hear and focus on the teacher. You might need to face the students away from distractions behind you (like other activities going on or people).
  • Simplify instructions and limit the information given at once: Use simple words and repeat. Some kids might need simple instructions which may need to be repeated multiple times. Learning a skill might require teachers to break it down into smaller explicit parts to learn individually and then eventually put it all together.
  • Repeat instructions: Instructions may need to be repeated multiple times.
  • Slow things down: Slow down the dance exercises so kids have time to learn.
  • Use extra repetitions when learning skills: Some kids might need extra practice for skills. Allow them to do more repetitions to learn the dance step if needed.
  • Break tasks down into smaller steps: Break the movement down into manageable chunks to support new learning.
  • Use a buddy system and/or do work in pairs or groups: Buddy systems and pair or group work can help to include everyone and help children learn and embrace other students’ ways of moving.
  • Praise and reward effort: Give lots of positive feedback to kids.
  • Ask parents what they would do to help: No matter how much you know about a particular disability, parents know their child the best. Talk to parents to find out the best way to communicate and work with their child. Parents can help you understand a child’s unique strengths and areas they need more help.
    You could ask questions like: What activities does your child enjoy the most? Are there any things they find particularly challenging? Are there things I can do to support his/her participation as much as possible? Are there situations that he/she finds stressful? Are there things that I can do to help your child understand or learn a new skill? What is the best way to communicate?
  • Notice any other challenges: Observe for any signs of emotional or behaviour challenges such as anxiety or attention problems and refer to and use the strategies suggested for these areas.

Related Videos & Animations

Related Dance Stories