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Some tips for working with students who have multiple disabilities

A person with a multiple disability will have more than one disability of different types. This often affects their developmental skills, sensory development and even motor skills. In India, there are thousands of people with multiple disabilities. Hence, it is important that the society is given awareness about what a multiple disability is and how they can reach out for any sort of help.

A person with multiple disability will have difficulty in basic physical mobility, will have a slow clerical speed, trouble in generalising skills, lack high level thinking and even tend to forget skills to name a few. Parents and teachers must make sure that a child with multiple disabilities gets trained from a very young age. With right grooming, children with multiple disabilities will grow up to become adults who can manage their own activities.

In fact, there are no specific guidelines to teach and empower children with multiple disabilities. So for instance, if a child with autism is deaf, we try and reach out to them just like how we do for children who are just deaf or has only autism. Most of the times, parents do not even realise that their child has multiple disabilities until it is too late. Teachers and parents must be really patient and understanding. You must realise that every child has some abilities. Try and focus on that. National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities offers courses on this- Chitra Shah, Founder, Satya Special School.

Here are some tips for working with students who have multiple disabilities

  • Make decisions based on the child's ability- This might sound easy. But it is not. Teacher or parent must be completely aware of how the child can perform when they are taught something new. A student's learning medium is the primary way in which they will gather information. For instance, if a child is blind along with a mental disability, check what kind of teaching methods they prefer. You must understand that the child will be able to learn things. But they need to be introduced to the right methods of teaching.
  • Wait for the child's response- Children with multiple disabilities take a lot of time to analyze and grasp things. Give them a lot of time to explore and know more about what they are doing. While some children take only a few days to paint or draw, some others might take weeks to do it based on their disabilities. In case they let you know that they cannot do it, do not force them to. Let it be.
  • Team work makes a difference- So this is applicable when you train children with or without disabilities. Team work makes a lot of difference for children with multiple disabilities. It is a chance for them to interact and know the other person better. Finding ways to communicate with each other can be challenging. But that is the whole fun about things.
  • Believe in your child- A child with multiple disabilities are capable of doing many things. But unlike other children, they need more time and patience to do well. Hence, teachers and parents must believe in the child's capability to do things. Never give up on the child because they need your constant support and confidence.

"The most important thing is that teachers and parents must believe in what the child can do. They also need to work together to make a difference in the life of the child. Patience is very important. At our centre, we ask parents of children with multiple disabilities to come and be a part of the sessions where we train them. That way, when the child goes back home, the parent can make them do the same things at home as well", says Sandhya Reddy, Co-Founder, Samanvai.

ALSO READ: 21 disabilities under RPWD 2016 - Multiple Disabilities

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