A child or adult with intellectual disability thrives in a nurturing and an understanding
environment, just like anybody else. They have psychological needs, aspirations, emotional
ups and downs, revel in experiencing new things and bonding with other people.

These needs are first met at home and then in interactions with the community, be it
the teachers, trainers or neighbours.

Majority of parents find it difficult and exhausting to deal with a child having intellectual
disability.They want to improve their child’s life but they do not know where to begin. It’s
a crisis situation, but when handled properly it can unfold a new dimension leading to the
wholesome growth of not only the child but also their own.

It is observed that children blossom when they have family support but don’t progress much
where the families aren’t engaged. It demands a twofold action –

  • Coping with one’s grief, frustration and accepting the child.
  • Informing oneself about intellectual disability and its difficulties so that they can
    work towards a fuller development of their child.

What Families Can Do

Learn about intellectual disability. It will help you in understanding the behaviour and
learning difficulties of your child. When your child develops speech, talk to him,
encourage him to speak. Do not give up, keep working on his language development.
Constructive play activities are important. Help him to develop interest in playing with
toys, drawing and colouring, listening to music & T.V. Play with the child and make
learning fun.

  • Enable your child to learn simple vocational skills and use them to work and earn
    to whatever extent possible.
  • Simplify tasks so that he can learn better. Break them into smaller and simpler
    steps e.g. washing hands can be broken down into opening the tap, taking soap,
    rubbing hands, washing away the soap with water, wiping with towel etc.
  • Appreciate even a small achievement to encourage further learning and initiative.
  • Be patient. Perseverance on your part will be extremely important for his
  • Give as many successful experiences as possible. Use your judgement, pick up
    the skills, which he is ready to learn and teach him that skill in smaller steps.
    Keep encouraging him to work.
  • Take care of his feelings and emotions. You may see certain undesirable
    behaviour that may take time to break. He may keep doing things which you tell
    him not to do. Caring attitude, firmness and patience will bring changes in this
  • Treat your child just like any other child. He needs to be loved, recognised,
    praised, disciplined and encouraged to learn various tasks needed for everyday
  • Overcome your embarrassment. It is very harmful for you as well as your child.
  • Respect and value your child and others will follow. We may not be able to
    change others but we can definitely try to change our own attitude and behaviour.
  • Take your child with you whenever you are going out. It can be going to market,
    to meet friends or to a social function etc. It is only when you take him to public
    places that he will learn appropriate social behaviour.
  • Remain engaged with normal life like going out, entertaining, meeting people and
    attending to one’s own interests and hobbies.
  • Promote integration of children with disabilities in regular schools and demand for
    such a facility.
  • Find out the skills your child is learning at school. Find ways to apply those skills
    at home. For example, if the teacher is going over a lesson about money, take
    your child to the supermarket and help him count the money to pay for your
  • Find opportunities in your community for social activities, such as scouts,
    recreation centres, sports, and so on. These will help your child build social skills
    as well as to have fun.
  • Talk to other parents whose children have an intellectual disability. Parents can
    share practical advice and emotional support.
  • Take pleasure in your beautiful one. He is a treasure. Learn from your child too.
    Those with intellectual disabilities have a special light within—let it shine.

What Teachers Can Do

If I cannot learn the way you teach me, teach the way I can learn!

Teachers can do wonders especially if they are willing to incorporate the above. When
teaching children with special needs they need to understand the child first and then the
special needs. It is important to know that each child goes through the same stages of
learning and development; only the pace may be different.

It’s important to understand and build on the capability of the person. When it comes to
understanding an adult with intellectual disability we stumble. There is a knowledge
barrier and no models to follow. Teachers need to accept the person and focus on the
strengths and life stage needs of the adult with intellectual disability. Then plan a
programme based on these facts.

  • Understand the current level of functioning in comprehension, conceptual learning, recognition of body urges, feeling of oneself and others and daily self-care skills.
  • Choose goals for training for every student.
  • Partner with parents/family members in understanding family expectations and
    guide them to realistic expectations.
  • Talk to parents/family members about evolving capacity throughout life as it
    happens with everyone.
  • Share the importance of discipline and good habits with family.
  • Use the method of task analysis in teaching.
  • Stress on specific learning outcomes as well as emotional well being.
  • Engineer successful experiences and boost self-confidence.
  • Go to the root of behavioural difficulties as they arise from emotional difficulties
    and undesirable habits.
  • Work with the system to foster inclusion.
  • Look at ways to adapt the curriculum as per the child’s needs.
  • There will be times when you might need to modify the curriculum to encourage
    the child to learn while having fun.
  • Continue to stress on conceptual learning via hands on application as people with
    intellectual disability understand our world through concepts.

Testimonials & Inspiring Stories


DECEMBER 26, 2016

Bubbling with energy and enthusiasm, Chitra has a delightful personality. She is a wonderful addition to our volunteers.

The day I came to know about Muskaan

It was the year 2005. I was a part of a three day Art of Living workshop, that was held at
Muskaan to help trainees. During that time I loved the atmosphere in Muskaan. And wanted
to help them. Since I live nearby it was an easy decision to make. Now I help Muskaan in
whatever way I can. I come three days a week. I use my training in classical music, to help
the students with music. I also help them with their hobby classes. Besides that, I help in
packaging the products, Diwali sale etc.

My words about Muskaan :

I enjoy the cheerful, joyous and vibrant atmosphere of Muskaan. The whole ambience here
is open, fresh and beautiful. Also, people are just wonderful. The work associates are very
enthusiastic and eager to learn. We have to teach them the way they want to learn.
Muskaan is very sensitive to these youngsters. They do not label them. They treat them with
respect and encourage them and allow them to grow. Muskaan lives up to its name.
Muskaan is like a family. I look up to it as a very successful model. It is a role model for any
adult training programme. I love being here. I love interacting with students, and teaching
them. I see them as individuals who need love and care. I try to build good rapport with
them. I would say I take back more than I give them. I try to spread awareness about
Muskaan, its activities, and also about their products.

My anecdote:

I have a student Punchika. One day I asked her to sing the song which we had learnt in the
class. She started singing, repeating every line. I said “Punchika, you have to sing each line
just once”. She said with confidence, “no mam, this is the correct way”. I was really
impressed with her confidence.


DECEMBER 26, 2016

Ira is a 40 year old woman. She has a high support need. Capacity development programme
for high support need persons helped her a lot in settling down and realisign her full

The day I came to know about Muskaan :

Recently she has been placed in flower unit of Muskaan. After 10-15 days of placement, one
day she refused to go in her individual corner for work. We were surprised. We waited and
observed her. After some time, she went to the work table where other students were
working. She took a chair and sat with them. To our surprise, she quietly took a tray of
flowers and started plucking the petals. We understood what she wanted. She wanted to be
part of the group and work.

My role with Muskaan :

Now she has started taking initiative in getting her work for the day. When flowers are
delivered to her unit in the morning, she gets up and sits near the pile of the flowers, takes
flower in her tray and starts working. One day she came in the office to show her work,
though she is extremely apprehensive in entering any new place other than her own unit.
She enjoys her work in flower unit as the work gives her a sense of achievement along with
fulfiling her sensory needs through touching and plucking flowers.

Best thing about Muskaan:

Flower unit of Muskaan collects used flowers from temples. Students of this unit pluck the
petals, dry them in solar dryer and send to another NGO (Society for Child Development,
Delhi) which has a system of using dried flowers to make organic Holicolours.


DECEMBER 26, 2016

About Muskaan : true to its name…makes me smile every-time i think about my experiences
with the organisation. It was in 1995, fresh out of school that I got associated with Muskaan.
Even though it was a short stint, I was always in awe of the energy they emanated. And now
again, after all these years, I have got to know how the organisation has grown manifold and
going strong. I am still in awe of the energy and happiness of adults with intellectual
disability in Muskaan . My best wishes for a better, bigger and brighter future. May you guys
keep prospering and stay blessed. Been fortunate enough to wear this wonderful t-shirt
imprinted with a ‘Muskaan Special’ painting. I wear it with pride….always!!!


DECEMBER 26, 2016

About Muskaan :

It has been more than 20 years since I have been associated with Muskaan and it has been
one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Started as a vocational training centre by a
small group of parents in a garage, facing many obstacles and challenges, today it is one of
the most sought after institutions for the mentally challenged. It is their indomitable spirit
which needs to be saluted. Muskaan has an amazing staff, which works with a missionary
zeal.The sincerity, compassion, patience and dedication runs deep in each and every
member of their staff. Their nurturing and inspiring role leaves deep impact on the students which make them confident and empowered. Today Muskaan is not only a vocational
training centre but it is a movement for social justice, equality, empowerment and dignity. It
is one of the finest examples of how people with dedication, faith and sincerity fighting for a
cause can create a miracle, if Tagore’s Shantiniketan is the abode of innovative
learning,Muskaan is the abode of enabling and empowering environment for the mentally

VANDANA KUMAR  (Punchika's Mother)

DECEMBER 23, 2016

When I first met Vandana, I was struck by her simplicity, her clarity of thoughts and her
commitment to Muskaan. She loves coming to Muskaan and helping the youngsters. She
has total faith in Muskaan’s philosophy of dignity and empowerment. Vandana has an M.A.
in Hindi, which she uses in good measure while teaching her students.

The day I came to know about Muskaan :

Our daughter Punchika used to go to Navjyoti where I also worked as a volunteer. Punchika
spent 18 years there, but then they stopped their vocational unit. So I decided to bring her
here. Also there were two other reasons. Muskaan is near our house and I had heard nice
things about it.

My role with Muskaan :

I help with the Life Skills Programme (LSP). It is an awareness programme where students
learn about themselves, others around them and the surrounding environment. It facilitates
enrichment of their cognitive faculties and personality development.

Best thing about Muskaan:

Muskaan is totally committed to these adults. There is absolutely no compromise on this
aspect. What strikes you most is the complete accessibility to teachers and the principal.
There is no boundary between work associates and teachers. The rapport between them is
amazing. They need wings to soar high and Muskaan helps them in every possible way. It
makes them fearless and confident. I can say that I have seen tremendous change in my
own daughter.

My anecdote:

Punchika knows Hindi typing and loves it. Once she was doing a puzzle on the computer
which she was not able to solve. But she didn’t give up. She worked on it the whole day. In
the evening when she solved it she screamed with joy, “I did it!” and came running to me. I
hugged her and kissed her on the forehead”.


DECEMBER 23, 2016

About Muskaan :

Puneet is an example of what can happen to a person with intellectual disability if the
person is respected for whatever one is and given all the opportunity for human potential to
flourish and express. Puneet is a responsible worker in stationary unit of Muskaan Work
Centre. Since childhood he has been a very vivacious person exploring his environment in
his own ways that every child does. As he grew, he became more and more confident. He
was supported in acquiring variety of skills including personal care, cognitive and social
skills. Even a small achievement, seemingly insignificant to others was fully recognised and
appreciated. The behaviours that were found to be unhelpful for his functioning were gently
but firmly discouraged as we do for any child. Care was taken to give him full respect and
care in all public spaces whether it was family visits, celebrations or any other social
gatherings. Never ever we discussed our difficulties or challenges within family or outside in
having a child whose intellectual functions were not as developed as other children. We knew that the world would respect him only if we did so. Today, we find that Puneet is a
darling of the family, relatives, friends and teachers.

ANITA ROY (Antara's Mother)

DECEMBER 26, 2016

Anita is a sincere and dedicated mother, who has helped Muskaan at every stage. With her
gentle and pleasant manners she has endeared herself to everyone at Muskaan.

The day I came to know about Muskaan :

Antara used to go to Anchalschool, where I met Shantiji (Shanti Auluck), mother of another
student, Puneet. She told me about her effort to start Muskaan and I decided to send
Antara there.

My role with Muskaan :

I saw the work happening at Muskaan and felt like helping. I used to help in whatever way I
could. It has been 15 years now. Presently I am with the Life Skills Programme (LSP). It a
great programme. Students talk of their inner conflicts. They feel completely at ease in
talking about themselves because they consider their teachers their friends. While talking
about their inner feelings they pour their heart out.

My words about Muskaan:

Muskaan is like a family. If I have any problem or anything which bothers me I can discuss
with Shantiji. Neeraji and all staff members are so nice. When I lived in Calcutta, I had no
moral support. Here at Muskaan I feel I have a family which is ready to help. I do not feel
lonely anymore. My daughter loves coming to Muskaan because it provides such wonderful
atmosphere. They feel secure and wanted.