MInD stands for Multiple Intelligences and Disability

"It's not how smart you are - it's how you are smart"

The theory of Multiple Intelligences posited by Howard Gardner in the 80's, states that different people are intelligent differently.

Every person has a unique potential.

Every person has a unique profile of various* intelligences.

The theory is of special significance for persons with disabilities, for it helps identify and understand their potential in an alternate and meaningful way.

It helps us enable and guide potential.

It is in keeping with the UNCRPD**.

* linguistic, musical, logical mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal, intrapersonal

** United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Professor Gardner's work on Multiple Intelligences has been pivotal in the work we do at Vidya Sagar with children who have developmental brain damage.

A brief rationale:

Typically persons with disabilities have been viewed with a need to 'normalize' them. They are slotted into their lowest area of attainment amongst the various areas of development. Their strengths and overall potential are often not addressed and remain untapped. At Vidya Sagar, however, we have always viewed disability as a development and a human rights issue and focused on abilities or intelligences! The theory of Multiple Intelligences has enabled us translate our vision to practice with special needs. This very importantly is in keeping with the UNCRPD "human rights model".

Particular lines in Frames of Mind were inspiration: that intelligences must be assessed on the job and under spatial intelligences where Howard Gardner says he saw in children with autism, "human intelligence in relative even splendid isolation"

They started us on what is now over a 10 year journey -- of looking at children with special needs with the lens of Multiple Intelligences The theory has been equally applicable to persons with Learning Disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Autism and we have since learnt from the children with Autism that there is a isolation of other intelligences as well .A lack of interpersonal intelligences hides a child's true potential.

By enabling us to look at the uneven profile of persons with special needs with new understanding, the lens of multiple intelligences has helped guide us to bypass difficulties as we plan programs, alternate learning strategies and guide career options. With the focus now resting on each child's unique set of intelligences, our work has been able to take each child to new heights of achievement and self esteem.

We are perhaps the only organization in India looking at Disabilities through this lens.

What is exciting for us now is that children with special needs and other marginalized groups of children are entering mainstream schools in India (Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act effective from April of 2010) (India has also ratified the UNCRPD in October 2007).

Their scholastic progress depends in large part to how they are included and educated. Successful inclusion requires a move away from the 'chalk and talk' forms of teaching and limited understanding of intelligence, to environments that enable diverse potential and teaching strategies and evaluation systems that are designed to suit different ways of information processing .We believe this would be most possible with the application of Multiple Intelligences.

Most importantly all children would benefit…..and teachers and parents would find new exciting answers to their own and their children's potential

Usha Ramakrishnan


When a child has a disability, much of his potential may be used up merely handling stress.

There could be internal stress, of not understanding his feelings towards his disability, of wanting to present a more positive image of himself to his parents and siblings, on the one hand, and, external stress of peer pressure, on the other.

The combination of a disability and its accompanying stress can wreck havoc on the child's performance, a discerning and emotionally intelligent professional would be very aware of this, and take cognizance of it during management

Findings from brain studies done on people show that under stress the emotional part of the brain, functions in ways that undermines the working of the brain's executive centre, the pre frontal lobes.

This pre frontal area is the site of working memory, the ability to pay attention and keep in mind relevant information. This working memory is vital for comprehension, planning, decision making, reasoning and learning- the very areas we are concerned with in learning disabilities

"When the mind is calm the working memory functions at its best, But when there is an emergency, the brain shifts to a self protective mode"-Daniel Goleman

It steals resources from the working memory and shunts them off to other parts of the brain to keep the senses hyperalert –this is a mental stand that has been tailored for survival –which in turn affects working memory

We must address ourselves to these factors as they impede children's learning In them we must include their inability to understand their emotions, and manage them effectively and thereby get stressed, and be unaware of it. There is a need to first look at children holistically, at their strengths, their disabilities, and into the accompanying stresses that prevent them from performing at their best

Enable them fill in their inner reserves with new self awareness, abilities to withstand stress, even while working with them to better theirperformance ,Only then will we be truly enhancing their potential to learn…

The most powerful inputs are those that speak to both the heart and head……

This nature of intervention is vital and is eminently possible with an emotionally intelligent professional Enter Emotional Intelligence

In 1983, Howard Gardner postulated "The Theory of Multiple Intelligences "which redefined intelligence, telling people "its not how smart you are –Its how You are smart" and postulated eight different intelligences of which 2 were the personal intelligences –the inter personal intelligence and the intra personal intelligence. Further to this in the 1990's came Daniel Goleman 's intensive work in the area of the personal intelligence which he named the emotional intelligences -elaborating in his books why it can matter more than IQ

There are five main elements to emotional intelligence- self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation, as personal competencies, and empathy and social skills as social competencies

Personal Competence – determines how we manage ourselves, and includes

  • »*Self awareness our own emotional awareness.
  • »*accurate self assessment-knowing our strengths and weaknesses,
  • »*self confidence which comes from a strong sense of our self worth and capabilities
  • »**self regulation which includes self control, the ability to keep negative emotions under check, trustworthiness ,conscientiousness, adaptability in handling change, and innovation-being comfortable with new ideas and approaches
  • »**motivation-including striving to meet a standard of excellence, commitment, initiative and optimism continuing to pursue goals despite obstacles and setbacks

Social Competence

*empathy, an awareness of others needs ,concerns , sensing others feelings understanding the others point of view, taking interest in what concerns them ,sensing others development needs and enabling them develop it social skills including listening and communication skills, ability to resolve conflict, leadership skills - inspiring and guiding others ,and team building skills amongst others . The combination of these competencies makes for a formidable professional While great emphasis is paid on the knowledge and skills of professionals, it is ultimately her emotional intelligence which makes or mars her effectiveness –and thereby a child stands to gain or lose

The role of E.I at Assessments

  • »To assess, we need to be attuned to the child, and look beyond checklists to guide us
  • »To be attuned we must listen to both parent and child
  • »To listen we must ourselves be in control of our emotions and feelings to truly understand the unspoken needs of another
  • »For without understanding needs, how would we guide?
  • »A mind that cannot control and manage its own feelings would be unable to guide another to better emotional self-control, which is the forerunner to developing self-esteem.

Emotional intelligence enables us to listen and attune ourselves to the other non judgmentally, even while managing our own emotions effectively.

At programme planning time too emotional intelligence has a vital role to play It enables the teacher to see that the program that has been developed is in a flow "Flow blossoms when a persons skills are fully engaged, and they lose themselves in their work,"-Goleman so much so that the work itself becomes the motivator And this we know, the best motivator is internal not external, and when the child's programme is pitched at her flow level then she work with concentration and productively, In order that they develop skills that matter for life- Emotional competence training should find a place in the program and teach children to identify and label feelings to express feelings correctly, Develop skills and strategies to handle and manage impulses, set goals for oneself, to understand another's point of view, to become self aware,to read non verbal cues and communicate both verbally and non verbally.

Gradually enabling them to find their strengths, their confidence and their place in the sun A program is effective where parents are involved. However some parents themselves maybe under stress, unable to handle their emotions, or social pressures. An emotionally intelligent professional would enable parents develop their emotional competencies and manage themselves, for she is aware of the repercussions on the child otherwise. Emotionally intelligent parents in turn would make a vital difference to their child's learning potential

Emotional intelligence is an idea that can make the difference

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel, Goleman Bantam books 1995

Frames of Mind –The theory of Multiple Intelligences-by Howard Gardner. Fontana press-an imprint of Harper Collins.

Working with emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Bantam books 1998.