Equal Opportunities Commission


Learn about Intellectual Disabilities

Learn about Intellectual Disabilities

Amy's Story

Looking At The Brighter Side


Amy is a primary three student with mild mental disability. Although her intellectual development lags behind other students her age, she is one of the most hardworking and responsible students in class. Unfortunately, she seldom does well in examinations.

Amy is eager to make friends at school, but she has difficulties expressing her feelings verbally, so she shows her enthusiasm by hugging and patting her classmates. Her friendly gestures, however, were at first misinterpreted and disliked by her classmates.

Concerned about Amy's situation, her teacher decided to help. At first, her teacher adopted certain accommodating measures, such as giving her extra time during examinations and scheduling one-hour tutoring sessions for Amy after school, once a week. Unfortunately, these measures were considered by some of her classmates and their parents as unfair, and began to affect her relationship with other students. They refused to make friends with Amy and some even made fun of her.

To help Amy integrate into her class, and with the consent of Amy and her parents, her teacher spoke to the class about how different people had different needs. After her teacher encouraged the classmates to be more accommodating towards Amy, some of them began playing with her. Other even volunteered to help Amy. School life has become happier for Amy and her communication skill has gradually improved. She has become more confident while her classmates have learnt how to respect and care for others.

Intellectual Disabilities/Mental Handicap

Intellectual disabilities entail sub-average intellectual performance and limitations in adaptive behaviour. Intellectual disabilities have a substantial impact on a person's educational performance, receptive and expressive language ability, capacity for independent living and economic self-sufficiency.

Social isolation, emotional problems, difficulty in communicating with others, lack of community and family support are among the most common problems faced by people with intellectual disabilities. Access to education and technology can mean greater participation for them in employment, social and recreational activities.

Building Inclusion

To prepare for the instructions for students with intellectual disabilities, it is important that teachers understand these students' needs, interests and strengths. Involvement of parents, siblings and other students in planning can provide valuable information about a student's abilities and needs, and ways that peers can provide support. Educators need to ensure that students with intellectual disabilities are provided with the necessary support and a well-structured, focused and sustainable study programme.

In addition to fostering an inclusive classroom environment, teachers need to set clear goals for their students and ensure that these goals are being attained. Positive reinforcement often produces surprising results. The following may also be beneficial:

* Facilitate a student's participation in class by seating them according to their needs
* Promote peer support and create a support system for students with disabilities at rest time and during extracurricular activities
* Recognise the success of a student with disabilities as a contributing member of the class
* Allow time for all students to share their feelings, ideas and concerns
* Intervene on behalf of a student with intellectual disabilities to stop any teasing and teach all students appropriate behaviour.

How can I make my class inclusive for students with Intellectual Disabilities?

To assist students with intellectual disabilities to learn and/or to enjoy school life, some adjustments are necessary. Some students may need certain special adjustments in teaching methods whilst others may require special accommodations in performance assessment. Examples of such adjustments are:

* Demonstrate or model a concept when possible
* Break information into steps and monitor comprehension in small phases
* Use multi-sensory teaching methods to enhance students'understanding
* Change learning tasks on similar topics by simplifying, condensing, combining, grouping or special coding according to the student's ability and needs
* Use different formats like handouts, overheads, audios and videos where appropriate
* Highlight or repeat key words / phrases
* Where appropriate, make special arrangements for examinations like extra time, alternative formats and alternative modes of assessment

DDO and the Code of Practice on Education

The Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), effective since 1996, protects persons with a disability from discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of their disability.

The Ordinance makes particular references to the field of education to ensure that persons with a disability have equal opportunities in education. It requires educational establishments NOT to discriminate against students with a disability and to make reasonable accommodations to address their special needs. Such accommodations may include adjustments in teaching, communication, and assessment methods. The DDO also prohibits harassment in educational establishments, including harassment of students with a disability by other students. The law binds the government, educational establishments and their employees, and in the case of harassment and vilification, even the students.

The Code of Practice on Education under the DDO was issued in July 2001 by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to provide guidance on the legal requirements under the DDO in the field of education. It serves to assist educational establishments in developing policies and procedures that prevent and eliminate disability discrimination, and educators in making provisions for students with disabilities. It covers a wide range of practical guiding principles on matters such as admission, providing access, curriculum design and assessment.

The Code is an aid for providers and recipients of educational services. It helps the providers to better understand what constitute non-discriminatory good practices in education, and the recipients to understand their rights and obligations.