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How do I manage my retarded child’s behavior?



How do I manage my retarded child’s behavior?

 By the medical definition of the word:

Mental retardation: A term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills. These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child. Children with mental retardation may take longer to learn to speak, walk, and take care of their personal needs such as dressing or eating. They are likely to have trouble learning in school. They will learn, but it will take them longer. There may be some things they cannot learn. As many as 3 out of every 100 people have mental retardation. In fact, 1 out of every 10 children who need special education has some form of mental retardation.

What the Expert Says:

First, let us look at what is “typical ” child behavior

I will start with the need for a “stuffed animal”.  Having an object of comfort is not unusual for a preschool child (and even a young elementary school child). This object helps them to transition from place to place and is a tool to give them peace when they are in unfamiliar surroundings, in environments that are not to their liking (such as overly noisy or stimulating such as the local supermarket or mall) and also to help them settle for rest times.

Secondly, let us look at the issue of sleep.  Many toddlers have difficulty sleeping through the night.  Sometimes, it is due to being awoken because of a wet diaper or pull-up, other times they are light sleepers and are triggered by noise, etc.  If possible try and keep a detailed log as to what time your child is awaking at night.  What does the child seem to want? Is he/she wet or dry when they awake. Are there noises that occur routinely at this time, such as an air conditioner kicking on or a garbage truck going by? Is he having a nightmare?  Night terrors? (Does he/she seem to be “awake” yet do not acknowledge you?)  This is an area that should be addressed with your pediatrician and possibly a specialist. Sometimes, the solution can be as simple as purchasing and using a “white noise ” machine to block out environmental noises.

Now for difficulties with communication, and self- hitting/screaming.  Your child may need more or a different “twist” on how the signs are being introduced with the speech. I have worked with numerous children with Down Syndrome (DS) who have difficulties with communication.  First, teach a few signs at a time. Three to five signs should be taught until mastery (which may be just consistent acknowledgement that he understands the sign vs. his making the sign himself) Important signs for children with DS to learn first include MORE, FINISHED, HELP, PAIN, EAT (DRINK), MOM, DAD, and WANT (Signed words are in caps for this response).  There are also important transition signs and techniques that can be employed to help a child move from one activity to another or one situation to another with fewer tantrums. These techniques are to give a child a transition sign with a verbal cue.  One can point to an imaginary watch on your wrist to signify “TIME for….” and then advise what is coming up in a few minutes and the activity that will follow.   For example, say “Soon it will be TIME for EATING.  Then it will be TIME for BATH.”  Sign only the words in caps for simplicity.  Please keep in mind that children with special needs often need an Adaptive or Functional Sign Language, which is modified for their needs when they learn to respond.

Also, the use of a simplistic sign chart could be helpful.  Again, using the signs above and then adding to the chart.  There is no reason that a child cannot have speech, sign and a picture exchange or picture chart to use simultaneously.  Again, an approach that is simple and uses only a few words, signs and pictures should be introduced at a time.  The pictures are best if they are photos of a familiar person signing the word or of an object of what they usually want (such as a box of cereal, carton of milk, bathtub, the dog, mom, dad, etc.)

Hopefully, these suggestions will help your child also, please avail yourself of area support groups for parents with special needs children. Good luck and please remember to consult with the professionals in your area, too.

Information courtesy of:

Louise Sattler, NCSP



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