Working With Persons with Special Needs
Activities of daily living (ADLs) are basic self care tasks one does within the home or the outdoors. Normally these skills develop from early childhood as one grows. Individuals with special needs find it difficult to perform such tasks thus requiring help to complete the tasks. A caregiver, trainer or therapist works these persons to help them develop self-care skills. Literature review examines the strategies that those working with people with special needs can employ to be more effective.
Special needs refer to persons needing assistance in performing self care activities stemming from developmental delays, medical issues or behavioural challenges. Placing children with special needs in settings with their typically developing peers bears positive outcomes. More important is the assessment and diagnosis by health personnel to determine the exact problem and ensure each case receives appropriate corrective measures.
Activities of daily living is a term used in healthcare to describe the basic self care tasks that enables one to live independently; the routine tasks in everyday life. They are the skills taught to children as part of the developmental milestones. Normal children acquire these skills with ease while those with special needs may face difficulties. As such, activities of daily living are used as a measure of the functional status of an individual especially in relation to persons with disability and the elderly. The basic self-care activities is: bathing, feeding, toileting, dressing, grooming (brushing teeth and hair), taking care of one’s belongings and functional mobility.
Evaluating Activities of Daily Living
Occupational therapists work with persons with special needs to provide interventions to overcome the activities of daily living deficits. They aim to increase the individuals function and participation in daily self-care activities. Interventions are developed after assessing the ADLs as performed by persons with special needs. There are assessment tools designed to aid in evaluation which include Assessment of Motor and Process Skills (AMPS) and Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COMP). The assessments are carried out for the following reasons:
- i. Help identifying the challenging activities in an individual
- ii. Help to establish the appropriate intervention programs
- iii. Used to monitor and measure program progress
- iv. Determines the kind of treatment one with special needs should receive
- v. Shows an overview of one’s functional status
Adaptive equipments are devices that enhance and increase independence in performing activities of daily living. Persons with special needs are encouraged to use adaptive equipments to assist them in completing self-care activities. Each device is designed to aid in a particular task. Examples of the pieces of adaptive equipment include Adapted utensils, plate guard, scoop dish and universal-cuff used in feeding; Velcro, button hooks, dressing sticks and legs straps that aid in dressing. Others are long handled brush, lap trays and built-up handles that support grooming activities whereas grab bars, non-skid floors, hand-held shower, reclining chairs help during bathing or in easing mobility.
Strategies for working with people with special needs in performing ADLs
Occupational therapists work with persons with special needs to provide interventions to overcome ADL deficits. They help them to improve their self-care skills. To do this one needs qualities like positive attitude, compassion and commitment to assist, understanding and patience. This paper gives insight on the strategies that can help those working with persons with special needs in facilitating their independence. These include:
- Educating oneself about special needs and the ADLs. Talk to health and social professionals, read books and search the internet to increase your knowledge. Information empowers one to deal with situations more aptly and also make appropriate decisions.
- Assess the care needs of each person with special needs. Try to evaluate the person’s performance of self-care tasks in order to determine their functional status. It will determine how much assistance each needs in a given task and also reveal their personal preferences.
- Work with other health care providers. Consult occupational therapists when designing the intervention programs and when determining the adaptive equipments for use. A medical professional will help in making the right diagnosis for treatment. These service providers can work together to complement each other’s services in improving the social, physical and psychological independence of persons with special needs.
- Interactions with the person with special needs should aim at creating an emotional connection. Conducting polite conversations and showing interest in others builds trust and self-esteem in them. For those with language defects, employ simple communication techniques like non-verbal cues to break the barrier. Gestures such as smiling, nodding, clapping and holding hands are powerful ways of communication.
- While training persons with special needs, explain each activity step by step. You can illustrate the activity using visual, auditory or tactile aids like pictures. Patience is highly valued here since persons with special needs may take more time to understand imitate lesson.
- Always provide enough opportunities for practice. Be dynamic; using a variety of methods and intervention programs for each activity. It gives the person with special needs a chance to try out different ways of performing a task, and then choosing what fits them. It is also necessary to allow them time to complete the tasks given and to incorporate their creativity into it.
- Positive reinforcement goes a long way in modelling behaviour. Appreciate their effort in trying to carry out activities. Supervise and provide positive feedback, compliments and rewards for each ADLs completed correctly. Through observations, one can identify and build on their strengths while working on their weak areas.
Persons with special needs are encouraged to use adaptive equipments to enhance and increase independence in carrying out activities of daily living. Each device is designed to aid in a particular task. These include grab bars, tub chair and hand held shower to aid in bathing and lap tray, long handled brush and universal cuff for grooming.
Working with people with special needs helps one to acquire knowledge that can help those affected and their families to get special medical, education and therapy services. One also understands the challenges that some disadvantaged persons face daily while performing tasks we consider easy. This helps to deconstruct stereotypical negative opinions held by other members of the society about those with special needs, thereby appreciating life in its entirety.
Working to Empower Families
Persons with special needs are valued members of their family units. Their parents and siblings love and take care of them although they may experience added challenges which other families may not. These parents are also faced with concerns about whether their children will be accepted in the community or how to adjust their routines. Others suffer anxiety over their children’s abilities and inabilities. As such, families need emotional, medical and material support. As a team member, you can provide a channel through which the family can address some of their needs thereby lessening the burden of care. One way of empowering the family is by giving them relevant information. Provide information on resources available for the family such as:
- Any support groups for persons with special needs and their families in the locality.
- Resource centres where one can get adaptive equipments and informative reading materials
- Available support services such as special education and therapy services.
- Information on government interventions or entitlements.
Working with people with special needs is very important. It helps one to acquire knowledge that can help those affected and their families to get special medical, education and therapy services. It is satisfying to see a challenged person become independent concerning the performance of daily activities. One is also able to understand the challenges that some disadvantaged persons face daily while performing tasks we consider easy. It helps to deconstruct stereotypical negative opinions held by other members of the society about those with special needs, thereby appreciating life in its entirety.