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Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability: Circles of Care and Education

University of Cape Town via Coursera


This course is about caring for and educating children (and youth) with severe to profound intellectual disability. We use the idea of 'circles' to position the child at the center of the many levels of support needed. Around the child are circles of care and education - such as the parents, family, friends, caregivers, educators, health care workers and others such as neighbors, business owners and community members. Each one has an important role to play in the life of a person with an intellectual disability and can be seen as a caregiver and educator. Although this course is aimed particularly at caregivers who work at a special centre or in a private home, each person in the circle of care and education plays a valuable role and will find the course useful.

During the course you can gain greater understanding about intellectual disability, levels of severity of intellectual disability and the history of intellectual disability. You will also start to understand how you can support children and youth with severe to profound intellectual disability so that they can reach their full potential and become participating members of society. We look at lifelong learning by exploring brain development, the learning process and how to maximise the opportunities for learning.

With input from a range of experts, we consider how best learning can be facilitated. This includes looking at children’s learning support needs, how to go about planning activities for the learning programme as well as how to empower multiple people who work in a team to care and educate children with severe to profound intellectual disability.

In the last week, we focus on rights, advocacy and relationships of care. Empowering and caring for caregivers themselves is a key focus of the course.

For professional development purposes, you can purchase a Verified Certificate if you wish to show evidence of your achievements, but this is optional, and you can apply for Financial Aid if you are unable to pay the certificate fee.


  • Who is the child with severe to profound intellectual disability?
    • This week focuses on understanding the child (or person) with severe to profound intellectual disability. We will look at the definitions and terms related to intellectual disability and provide an overview of the history of intellectual disability. We will also explore how the needs and rights of children with severe to profound intellectual disability can be supported, with a particular emphasis on their right to education. We invite you to comment in the discussion forum, check your knowledge in the practice quizzes and take the graded quiz at the end of the week.
  • Lifelong learning
    • Lifelong learning is an approach that views everyday living as providing children with severe to profound intellectual disability opportunities to learn. With input from several experts, we'll explore how children with severe to profound intellectual disability can learn with appropriate support, what can be done to best facilitate the learning process and the importance of the learning environment. Attitudes and communication are highlighted as being central to creating effective environments for learning. Researchers also report on their findings from a local study on intellectual disability and life long learning in South Africa. At the end of this week, there are additional readings, a forum for discussion and a graded quiz.
  • Facilitating learning
    • This week we look at the learning support needs of children with severe to profound intellectual disability. We consider how to set up learning programmes and integrate different skills and activities. We look at how to change or adapt these programmes to meet the specific needs of mixed groups of children and those in different stages of learning. We also explore the role of structure and routine in creating effective learning environments. Lastly, we look at empowering the caring team, to support the development of children with severe to profound intellectual disability. At the end of this week, you will be asked to critically evaluate a learning programme and review the assignment of peers.
  • Rights, advocacy and relationships of care
    • This final week focuses on the relationships of care. We explore ways of giving agency to children with severe to profound intellectual disability who have been central to advocacy campaigns for their full inclusion in society. We also hear from caregivers who are, in many cases the key advocates for persons with intellectual disability. The circle of care for the caregiver is discussed, highlighting how they too need to be cared for and empowered. At the end of this week, there is a graded quiz. You may also choose to do the optional Honors Peer Review assignment.

Taught by

Judith McKenzie


4.7 rating, based on 24 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 109 ratings

Start your review of Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability: Circles of Care and Education

  • Anonymous
    Man himself is the artisan of his own future
    It is not instability but thinking about everything and moving forward. I may have to do the job very quickly in front of Harry Quickly, but I have to be restless about it and move forward strategically without putting pressure on my qualifications and mentality. One should have the right idea about oneself. I will always see myself at the top. I will move away from this mental scholarship and find success in the midst of boundless peace like the sky. Those who succeed
    Enough self-confidence without looking at the respect does not give!
    khaleda shaheen
  • Profile image for Agnieszka Anna Wójcicka
    Agnieszka Anna Wójcicka
    The course provides a criminal explanation of what a severe or profound intellectual disability is. It includes valuable lectures by professors, therapists, and employees who have intellectually disabled children share their experiences. During the course,...
  • Anonymous
    It's a useful course to give you the change to reflect on how children with profound intellectual disabilities learn. It gives you the chance to develop a programme - with good advice and access to a robust methodology based on the insights and knowledge from parent and teachers/carers who are experts by experience
  • Erin Hutchinson - Himmel
    I found this course very interesting. It does deal mostly with special education in South Africa and some terms are not as relevant as to the study in the United States (where I currently teach). It was an interesting overview of how circles of care are being implemented in other parts of the world.
  • Profile image for Michaela Grobbelaar
    Michaela Grobbelaar
    Honestly a very informative course. The content material was very well thought through and covered a variety of relevant topics in very balanced detail. The involvement of parents and caregivers within the course was a great addition, it really brought it down to the grass-roots of this field. I found the practice assignments and formal assignments concretized the information more for me. I highly recommend this course.
  • Anonymous
    This course was amazing. The knowledge I have obtained will help me better understand persons diagnosed with disabilities. Thank you
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    Good course. Lots of practical examples and pictures and bit size chunks to make it easier to understand for anyone, no matter how much or little we make think we know.
  • Anonymous
    Please have a look at this course even if it doesn't seem relevant to your profession. The content is important and can be attitude changing. The more of us who have a deeper understanding of those most excluded in our society, the more compassionate and inclusive a society we can be part of building.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I am a Father of a 38 year old Twin Daughter and I was looking for guidance on continued learning for my daughter as she enters the final stages of going blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa.

    This course refreshed my determination to persist with the concept of 'lifelong' learning and the concepts of 'Circles of Care' and the importance of good outcomes for the person with a disability if 'Caregivers' are respected and cared for as well.

    Burnout of caregivers can be avoided.

    The course also introduced me to other more specific courses for my daughter particular situation and great International resources.
  • Anonymous
    The course about Children with Severe to Profound Intellectual Disability was very insightful. It helped me to gain access into a world many experienced as hidden and obscured. The lecturers were very clear in their presentations. The content was explained in a way that was understandable as well as challenging. I cannot wait for a follow up course. Thank you for a great opportunity given.
  • Hayley
    This course is excellent for people who doesn't know what is going on in the lives of the disabled. I have learned such a lot. The plan is to go to one of the school in our area and spent a day in the life of these children and hopefully become a volunteer.
  • Anonymous
    This course is very informative and engaging. It gives me a lot of information,knowledge and skills on how to deal and care with children with severe and profound intellectual disability.Thanks everyone for sharing this.
  • Anonymous
    I would rate this course a 10 due to the great information, great subject matter, learned a lot, and it's easy to follow. I would recommend this class to others out there trying to enhance or grow their knowledge.

  • Anonymous
    It is very helpful knowing deeper the essence of carer for severe to profound intellectual disability. I know already the precautions and things to consider handling various scenarios.
  • Anonymous
    This course is very insightful and truly helped me to understand the world of the intellectually disabled person. I can truly recommend it as a worthwhile course .
  • Anonymous
    This course was very useful for me, because I learned a lot of information I need that I can use in practice, I also wanted to note that there was a lot of information that I did not know, but which was very necessary if you work with a child with intellectual disabilities, I would like to thank everyone for sharing with us knowledge and skills that will help us both people working with children with intellectual disabilities and the children themselves, because now we can fully understand them and take into account their desires
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The course on the circle of care for children with severe to profound intellectual disability is a realistic step by step guide on the care, management, and modification of the learning curriculum for effectiveness.
    I particularly found the module on planning the learning program very instructive as it elaborates on the stages of learning progression and how to effectively plan for teaching and learning for each stage.
    Well done to all the facilitators! They were quite engaging and practical.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I am an Occupational Therapist working at a care Centre for children with moderate to severe intellectual and physical disibilities. I found this course very helpful with regards to new ideas of how we can structure groups in our setting and ensuring every child is actively participating.

    Thank you for offering a course focusing on this topic as there is little information available overall.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This course is informative, interesting, and engaging. As a pre-health student, I have learned a lot about working with children with severe to profound intellectual disabilities that will be helpful in my future pursuits.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Informative and eye opening. Gave life to what I have been learning in traditional theoretical way. Enjoyed hearing from all stakeholders involved in caring for children with severe to profound disabilities.

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