For adults with intellectual disability, being self-reliant is a key milestone for both themselves and their families. However, the road to independence is not all smooth sailing, and that’s why as caregivers, your support, understanding and patience are essential in helping them achieve this milestone.

For a start, it’s heartening to know that it’s never too late for them to learn new things. As they embark on the learning journey to adapt, here are some suggested teaching techniques that you can adopt to help guide them along:

  • Break down tasks into small steps to avoid overwhelming them. Once a step is mastered, you can proceed to teach the next step.
  • Opt for a “hands-on” approach, where information is concrete and observed.
  • Utilise visual aids, such as charts, pictures, etc. 
  • Provide immediate feedback directly to help them form the connection between their actions and the effect.
  • Adopt different ways to teach a task, such as getting them to join a community/group, working alongside another family member on a specific task, etc.
  • Teach them in a place where the task will be performed so as to build familiarity.
  • Create schedules for routine and predictability, preferably sequential steps in pictorial form.
  • Practice, practice and practice.

Understanding how to communicate with them would also help facilitate your teaching:

  • Maintain eye contact and speak directly to them.
  • Speak in a clear, concise and simple manner.
  • Consult them instead of making decisions on their behalf. Ask for their opinions and give them time to respond.
  • Don’t be affected by a lack of response or unconventional behaviour.
  • Be patient and continue talking to them at a regular pace.
  • Include them in social activities. Be friendly and kind.
  • Acknowledge and encourage them when they make significant achievements.
  • If you’re not being understood, change your way of communicating with them. Use real objects, photos and pictures to explain things.

Caregivers, the amount of time, effort and love you provide, and the role you play in their lives are admirable! However, as caregiving can be emotionally and physically wearying, it’s imperative that you take time out to recharge as well:

  • Equip yourself with available caregiving resources
  • Find or set up a support group
  • Ask for and accept help when needed
  • Stay connected to your family and friends
  • Set aside time for physical activities, breaks, etc.
  • Eat healthily.

For more relevant resources and support, do check out the following organisations: SG Enable, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled (MINDS).