Parents, teachers, and administrators want the best education possible for their children. A question that is often asked is whether students with intellectual disabilities learn in the same way as other students or require unique teaching methods.
Persons with intellectual disabilities are a very heterogeneous population, especially at the milder end of the range. The nature of an individual's characteristics is determined largely by the interactions among three factors: the general level of intellectual functioning, the age of the person, and the favorableness or adaptive fit of the environment (Wehmeyer, 2003).
As a group, learning is slower and less efficient among these students than it is among a group of learners without intellectual disabilities. The efficiency of learning is affected by the degree to which the individual learns incidentally from environmental input. Students with intellectual disabilities tend to respond better to direct, consistent instruction and to learn poorly or inaccurately from unstructured environmental stimuli and incidental learning experiences (McCormick, Campbell, Pasnak, & Perry, 1990).
In conclusion, research on teaching students with Intellectual Disabilities tends to point to a need for direct, step-by-step, and consistent instruction.
McCormick, P.K., Campbell, J.W., Pasnak, R., & Perry, P. (1990). Instruction on Piagetian concepts for children with mental retardation. Mental Retardation, 28(6), 359-366.
Wehmeyer, M.L. (2003). Defining mental retardation and ensuring access to the general curriculum. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 38(3), 271-282.