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Attitudes, Aspirations and Teaching Skills of Parents of Intellectually Handicapped Children*

  • Roger J. Rees (a1) and Jim W. Irvine (a2)


The paper describes the assessed attitudes of 101 parents of intellectually handicapped children to interaction with their children. Contrasts in attitudes using Strom’s Parent As A Teacher Inventory (PAAT) are made between parents with Down’s Syndrome children and parents with brain damaged children. Differences on subset scores in the inventory are highlighted. Attitudes and behaviours of parents who were most successful in teaching language skills are contrasted with those who were least successful. The limitations of the attitude inventory are examined along with its role in helping parents to identify specific difficulties they have in teaching their children.

Studies in developmental psychology are making us aware of the need to deliberately create new reference groups so that personal expectations can be more appropriate. For example, when age dictates retirement, many individuals find themselves for the first time lacking a guide for their behaviour. They report that to be without norms is to be alone in the worst sense since one does not know the proper criteria by which to evaluate oneself (Strom, 1978). A similar feeling is expressed by parents of intellectually handicapped children. When they decide that traditional norms are inappropriate expectations for their child, what sorts of replacement goals should then be pursued? If the revised aspirations are drawn from a relevant reference group, these parents are more likely to develop the self-confidence and teaching skills needed to maximize their child’s development. One way to begin this process calls for determining what individual mothers and fathers expect of their atypical child and how they perceive themselves as teachers.



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This research was made possible by grants from the Inger Rice Foundation, the Australian National Advisory Council for the Handicapped, and from an anonymous Melbourne donor.



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