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Strategies for intellectual disability

It is important to implement strategies that address the needs of the individual. It is

recommended that teachers/parents apply these strategies across home, school, and
community contexts.
Learning & Academics

Use short and simple sentences to ensure


Repeat instructions or directions


Ask student if further clarification is


Keep distractions and transitions to a


Teach specific skills whenever necessary.

Provide an encouraging and supportive learning environment.

Use alternative instructional strategies and alternative assessment methods.

Explicitly teach organizational skills.

Keep conversations as normal as possible for inclusion with peers.

Teach the difference between literal and figurative language.

Direct students attention to critical differences when teaching concepts.

Remove distractions that may keep student from attending.

Increase difficulty of tasks over time.

Teach student decision-making rules for discriminating important from

unimportant details.

Use strategies for remembering such as elaborative rehearsal and clustering

information together.

Use strategies such as chunking, backward shaping (teach the last part of a skill
first), forward shaping, and role modeling.

Use mnemonics (words, sentences, pictures, devices, or techniques for

improving or strengthening memory).

Intermix high probability tasks (easier tasks) with lower probability tasks
(more difficult tasks).

Use concrete items and examples to explain new concepts.

Do not overwhelm a student with multiple or complex instructions.

Be explicit about what it is you want the student to do.

Do not assume that the student will perform the same way today as they did

Ask student for input about how they learn best, and help them to be in control
of their learning.

Put all skills in context so there is a purpose for learning certain tasks.

Involve families and significant others in learning activities.

Develop a procedure for the student to ask for help (e.g. cue card, raising

When it appears that a student needs help, discretely ask if you can help.

Be aware that a student may be treated with medications that could affect
performance and processing speed.

Maintain high yet realistic expectations to encourage social and educational


Proceed in small ordered steps and review each frequently.

Emphasize the student's successes.

Consider alternate activities that would be less difficult for the student, while
maintaining the same or similar learning objectives.

Provide direct instruction in reading skills.

Offer "standard" print and electronic texts.

Provide specific and immediate corrective feedback.

Encourage students to use relaxation and other stress reducing techniques

during exams.

Allow more time for examinations, tests, and quizzes.

Show what you mean rather than just giving verbal directions.

Use visual supports when relating new information verbally.

Provide the student with hands-on materials and experiences.

Break longer, new tasks into small steps.

Demonstrate the steps in a task, and have student perform the steps, one at a

Address the student and use a tone of voice consistent with their age.

Speak directly to the student.

Avoid long, complex words, technical words, or jargon.

Ask one question at a time and provide adequate time for student to reply.

Use heavy visual cues (e.g. objects, pictures, models, or diagrams) to promote

Target functional academics that will best prepare student for independent
living and vocational contexts.


Provide frequent opportunities for students to learn and socialize with typically
developing peers.

Involve the student in group activities

and clubs.

Provide daily social skills instruction.

Directly teach social skills, such as turntaking, social distance, reciprocal

conversations, etc.

Break down social skills into non-verbal and verbal components.

Explains rules / rationales behind social exchanges.

Provide frequent opportunities to practice skills in role-playing situations.

Provide opportunities to practice skills in many different environments.

Serve as a model for interactions with students.

Value and acknowledge each students efforts.

Provide many opportunities for students to interact directly with each other.

Work to expand the young childs repertoire of socially mediated reinforcers

(e.g. tickling, peek-a-boo, chase, etc.).

Ask students to imagine how their behaviour might affect others.

Specifically comment on and describe what the student is doing.

Model tolerance and acceptance.

Provide opportunities for students to assume responsibilities, such as

distributing papers.

Teach other students to ignore inappropriate attention-seeking behaviours.

Have other students (who demonstrate appropriate behaviour) serve as peer


Be aware that some students may work better alone.

Carefully consider and monitor seating arrangements in the classroom.

If student is motivated by adult or peer attention, find ways to recognize

positive contributions.

*Social Stories can be used to teach social skills to children with such disabilities as
autism or intellectual disability. A situation, which may be difficult or confusing for
the student, is described concretely. The story highlights social cues, events, and
reactions that could occur in the situation, the actions and reactions that might be
expected, and why. Social stories can be used to increase the students understanding
of a situation, make student feel more comfortable, and provide appropriate responses
for the situation. We recommend that you incorporate visuals into the stories as well.
These visuals can be drawings created by the student, imported images from Google,
picture symbols / icons, or photographs.


Ensure that the student has a way to appropriately express their wants and

If the student is non-verbal, identify and

establish an appropriate functional
communication system (e.g. sign
language, Picture Exchange
Communication System (PECS), voice
output, etc.).

Understand that picture schedules and

functional communication systems are
NOT the same thing; they do not serve the same purpose.

Develop a functional communication system that is easily portable.

If the child is non-verbal, ensure that the child has access to their
communication system across all contexts, all of the time.

Reinforce communication attempts (e.g. their gestures, partial verbalizations)

when the child is non-verbal or emerging verbal.

Paraphrase back what the child has said or indicated.

Label areas in the room with words and pictures.

Use sequencing cards to teach the order of events.

If you do not understand what the student is saying, ask them to repeat what
they have just said.

Ask student to show you how they say yes and no and then ask yes/no

Engage students in role-plays to target reciprocal conversation skills.

Program for generalization of communication skills across all contexts.

Use large clear pictures to reinforce what you are saying.

Speak clearly and deliberately.

Paraphrase back what the student has said.

Clarify types of communication methods the student may use.

Reinforce communication attempts (e.g. their gestures, partial verbalizations)

when the student is non-verbal or emerging verbal.

Provide puppets/pictures as props when using finger plays and songs.

Develop a procedure for the student to ask for help (e.g. raising hand, signal

Speak directly to the student.

Model clear speech and correct grammar.

Establish easy and good interactive communication in classroom.

Consult a speech language pathologist concerning your class.

Be aware that some students may require another form of communication.

Encourage participation in classroom activities and discussions.

Model acceptance and understanding in classroom.

Use gestures that support understanding.

Be patient when the student is speaking, since rushing may result in frustration.

Focus on interactive communication.

Use active listening.

Incorporate the students interests into conversational exchanges.

Use storybook sharing in which a story is read to the student and responses are
elicited (praise is given for appropriate comments about the content).

Daily Living

Break down / task-analyze skills into


Model targeted skills, then provide

practice opportunities.

Use visual schedules with pictures /

icons to demonstrate each step.

Systematically fade prompts to promote


Teach occupational awareness and exploration, as appropriate.

Teach material in relevant contexts.

Reinforce students for generalizing information across material or settings.

Provide many opportunities for students to apply information they have


Explicitly teach life skills related to daily living and self-care.

Plan experiences that are relevant to the student's world.

Find ways to apply skills to other settings (field trips).

Minimize distractions and the possibility for over-stimulation.

Teach and model personal hygiene habits such as washing hands, covering
mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and dental care.

Arrange the environment so students have many opportunities to practice

personal care and self-help skills.

Teach and model rules and practices for bus safety, safety outside, staying with
the group, and safety in the classroom.

Teach students to provide personal identification information when asked.

Teach and model procedures for dealing with potentially dangerous situations,
including fire, severe weather, and strangers.


Model desired behaviours, and clearly identify what behaviours you expect in
the classroom.

Use behaviour contracts or token

economies if necessary.

Ensure consistency of rules and routine.

Reinforce desirable behaviours that

serve as alternatives to inappropriate

Ensure that the student knows the day's schedule at the start of each day and
can reference schedule throughout day.

Have a "hands to yourself" rule to respect personal space of all students.

Ensure understanding of all assignments and tasks (and materials needed).

Ensure consistency of expectations among all staff.

Create a structured environment with predictable routines.

Create a visual / picture schedule with daily routine.

Allow students opportunities to move during instruction.

Use visual organizers to help the student evaluate appropriate alternatives to

maladaptive behavior.

Create a calming area or a sensory area.

Explicitly teach and practice coping, calming strategies.

When dealing with conflict, explain what happened in as few words as possible
and use a calm, not-angry voice.

Point out consequences of the students behavior.

Brainstorm better choice(s) with students.

Use language to describe feelings and experiences.

Explain your reasons for limits and rules in language that students can

Model the benefits involved in cooperating.

Use natural consequences when possible to reinforce cause and effect involved
in a rule, request, or limit.

Behavior management techniques can be used in the home, school, and

community settings. Functional Behavior Assessments/Behavior Intervention
Plans can be created by examining a student's specific problem behavior,
identifying antecedents, understanding consequences that maintain the
behavior, and developing strategies to reduce the inappropriate behavior and
increase desirable behavior.