Heartwarming Stories of the Intellectually Challenged

Enabled Kids is attending the Health and Wellbeing in Developmental Disabilities Two-Day Conference (HWDD) starting today at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto. We will be bringing you live blog posts from the conference venue on Nov. 12th and 13th.


Doctor Dorothy M. Griffiths, Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University gave a heartwarming keynote presentation at the HWDD today. Her topic was Life Transitions, about how the many transitions in our life: school, work, relationships, leaving our family, marriage and death of loved ones could be difficult ones for individuals with intellectual disabilities. She touched on how life transitions can be appropriately planned and supported to promote the health, happiness and wellbeing of the individual.

For people with intellectual disabilities, feelings of abandonment, failure, and frequent periods of isolation and loneliness are not foreign to them. There is great rejection for these populations, as shown by a recent piece of news where a couple in France sued their doctor for negligence in advising them that their child has a intellectual disabilities. They sued on the premise of ‘wrongful birth’.

Even though children with intellectual disabilities are often met with negativity, Griffiths maintains that, “The key to the ease of transition into life is family support including early assessment, support and practical guidance.”

For example, a student who was identified as having ‘sexual problems’ and ‘aggressively hugging’ other students was diagnosed as having Smith Magenis Syndrome, where he has urine and bowel problems and is prone to self-injury. The hugging and rubbing of hands and feet against people is simply because he felt numb in his hands and feet. After education of his teachers, they gave him a spa program where his hands and feet could be moisturized and massaged with warm cream. He started to request for this spa treatment when he wanted it. There was more understanding and empathy elicited instead of a judging identification of this student.

Another student with intellectual disabilities has always expressed her dream to be a police officer. Although in the beginning she was denied such a goal, she later expressed her wish was actually to just sit with police officers. The local police office later offered her a job where she could shred confidential documents she can’t read. In this way, she fulfilled her dream.


People with intellectual disabilities have the same desires to love and be loved, to move into adulthood and to have fun. When asked about what his life goal is, a person with intellectual disabilities answered “I want a woman with a nice car with a good radio.” This is all of the aforementioned combined.

Griffiths pointed out that currently there is very little done to help individuals develop meaningful human relationships. Over half of women with intellectual disabilities will be abused in their lifetimes and many times caregivers do not read the big information files of who the person is and what their past vulnerabilities are. She maintains that life transitions have to be appropriately planned and implemented to proactively achieve healthy lifestyles of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Were you at the HWDD today? What were your insights into the keynotes and workshops? Let us know by COMMENTING below!

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has written 15 articles for Enabled Kids.

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