Educational opportunities for adults with intellectual disability – Polish experiences

Kamila Gandecka

Abstract


So far, the majority of both research and social policies regarding education of individuals with intellectual disabilities focused on children and adolescents, who were targets of numerous programs meant to adjust both learning materials and methods of teaching to their needs. At the same time, the issue of continuing education for adults with intellectual disabilities has been marginalised or even completely ignored. This was partially due to the fact that these people, no longer being subject to mandatory education, remained outside of the educational system and thus tended to be overlooked, which meant that there were few – if any – educational opportunities available to them. Another issue to consider was the very low level of awareness in the society regarding the need to activate this group of people both socially and occupationally. This situation has changed considerably during the last 25 years and still continues to change. There are far more opportunities for adults with learning disability to actively participate in specially designed activities. There is also a fundamental shift in the perspective on the role of such activities, from programs meant to fill the disabled person’s time to more structured educational programs aimed at promoting independent functioning and integration with the society, as well as acquisition of skills which would allow them to undertake meaningful work within supported work environment. These programs also aim to act against prejudice and discrimination and to shift the view of an intellectually disabled person from an “eternal child” to an adult with concrete skills and abilities. The aim of the current research is to explore these social, legislative and educational changes in Poland during the last 25 years, using the example of Lower Silesia region. The study employed the methods of pedagogical monograph, which analysed functioning of three occupational therapy workshop facilities in the region, unstructured interviews with professionals working with adults with intellectual disabilities, as well as document analysis, which included legal documents regarding the issue. It was concluded that although the educational opportunities of adults with intellectual disabilities have improved over the last two decades, mostly due to activities of many local non-governmental organizations and their innovative programs, there are still many physical, societal and psychological barriers in access to continuing education for adults with intellectual disabilities. It was found that currently in Lower Silesia the only form of meaningful and practically useful further education available are the occupational therapy workshops.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n19p418


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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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