Behave yourself. You are being watched
People with intellectual disability have exactly the same needs as the rest of us — to be loved and cared for, and to give love to others. So who are they learning from, and how do we help them deal with their frustrations? JACQUELINE AMOS explains how she applies Buddhist principles in her work as a psychologist.
“One way of receiving love from significant others is to mimic their behaviors — it’s a lesson that most of us learn. If our significant others are kind and caring, then this is how we learn to behave. If they are angry and self-cherishing, then this is the behavior we adopt — at least initially until we work out that there are other ways to behave. But people with intellectual disability do not have well-developed cognitive skills and cannot always work out these differences for themselves.
“In my early career as a psychologist I worked with adults with intellectual disability who had issues with anger: most of them had experienced a lifetime of institutionalization. Many of these adults had learned that carers in these institutions would not or could not respond to emotions such as sadness, boredom, frustration, or fear, unless they were presented as angry outbursts. Often these angry outbursts were responded to by staff in the form of behavior modification programs that did not look beyond the presenting behavior.
“I knew in my heart that their anger was harmful to them in a very significant way. I had a vague notion of karma based on what little I knew about Buddhism as well as the Christian notion, i.e. as you sow so shall you reap …”