Teaching a child with a low IQ is a difficult task that requires a special kind of person. Being understanding, patient and aware of the specific challenges that these students face is crucial to their growth and development. Whether these students are integrated into regular classrooms or attending a special school, their success is highly dependent upon the quality of their education. Accurately assessing these students' abilities and using the most appropriate teaching strategies can have a profound impact on their quality of life.
Have a professional administer a formal IQ test to the child if this has not already happened. Understanding the student's level of impairment can be very helpful for understanding how much extra help he requires. While an IQ of 100 is considered average, anywhere between 85 to 100 is actually in the normal zone. An IQ that falls between 70 and 85 is considered low, while IQs below 70 can signify mental retardation. An IQ of 85 may require a little extra time and patience while an IQ of 70 may involve more assistance with even basic tasks.
Assess the student's strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention to what the student may do well while noting what areas the student seems to struggle with the most. IQ does not measure every type of intelligence, so pay attention to whether a student has some artistic ability or shows more ease with spatial awareness, mathematics, verbal skills or other areas. Encourage and praise these abilities while spending extra time in areas that are most difficult. Notice what type of learner the student is (visual, auditory or kinesthetic) and adapt your teaching approach to this style.
Cultivate an attitude of patience, understanding and acceptance. Students with low IQs may not give any indication that they are paying attention to your efforts and may be easily distracted. Giving a student the same instruction a number of times may be necessary for him to internalize the concept. If you find yourself becoming frustrated, take a deep breath and try a different approach.
Adjust your vocabulary so that your explanations and instructions can be clearly understood by the student. On assignments and tests, avoid any challenging vocabulary that may prevent the questions or instructions from being understood by the student. If the student cannot even understand what is required of him, it makes it very difficult for him to attempt the task.
Answer any questions that may come up for the student right away instead of making him wait for an "appropriate time." The learning of these students works best when it is spontaneous, and you should therefore adjust to their spontaneous needs as they arise.
Use visual aids, employ storytelling time and any other methods that can make the material you are teaching more engaging. These students may have shorter attention spans than other students, so it is important to discover ways that can keep them interested.
Remember to keep the pace very moderate and avoid introducing new material too quickly. Because it takes students with low IQs longer to retain information, it may be much more productive to focus on tasks until they can be completed satisfactorily, then add more difficult assignments. For example, it may take a child several months to learn to tie his shoes on his own. Do not give up (such as suggesting the child switch to velcro shoes) -- stick with it until he can accomplish the task, then slowly add more challenging goals.
- Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition Text Revised; 2000
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