People with a disability have very particular needs when it comes continuing their learning. Inspire is an organisation in Malta that’s dedicated to helping over 1000 individuals with various disabilities, including Down Syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and others. Their adult programme was specifically set up to help students attain self realisation through the fulfillment of their aspirations and capabilities, and it achieves this through the provision of individualised services to clients with an intellectual disability who are over 16 years of age.
“Ours is a programme that focuses particularly on independent living skills,” explains Inspire team leader Lindsey Meilak. “It covers functional skills that are rarely tackled in a school setting and which people with a disability may need extra guidance on.”
The course covers a range of life skill topics, including preparing simple meals, making tea and coffee, and doing laundry. It also encourages community learning, such as taking the bus, teaching the students how to get from one place to another, or enabling them to use community services like the post office or a clinic. “These things are not straight forward or obvious for people with a disability, so they need to be taught,” Lindsey continues.
Inspire also helps its students to maintain a good quality of life. “We help them develop a support strategy so they can go out into the community and build social relationships by meting others and making new friends. Isolation can be very damaging and this helps to alleviate that,” she says.
Lindsey and her team start every training programme by assessing the needs of the individual in question – their strengths and limitations, as well as their goals. The answers help to ensure the best results for each person, and Inspire has seen the positive outcomes that this brings. “We had a particular student who didn’t communicate at all, so we introduced the use of a tablet and encouraged him to communicate using it. Since then we’ve witness so much progress for this individual, as he is able to explain his needs in a way that he couldn’t before.”
Lindsey shares her suggestions for providing the best-possible training to people with a disability:
- Use visuals whenever possible. Interactive means make a difference, as people with a disability often find it difficult to understand instructions but will remember something they’ve seen on a flash card time and time again.
- Incorporate sensory methods when possible. For instance, if you’re trying to explain the meaning the of the word ‘cold’ don’t rely on abstract explanations but use something that actually feels cold to the touch. This will help the individual to understand much quicker.
- Finally, I find one-on-one coaching very effective. I worked with a particular individual at home, and found that the fact they were in a setting that made them feel comfortable was very beneficial because I was able to walk them through my explanations and actually show them how to do things in the place that they would be in when I wasn’t there. The results were excellent.