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Creating a bond

« Si on accepte qu’une personne soit un tout, c’est tout entière qu’elle doit être objet de considération, avec ses forces, mais aussi avec ses faiblesses et ses échecs. »

-Gilles Gendreau

At first sight, establishing a bond of trust with a polyimpaired person may seem a laborious process. Nonverbality, which is a consequence of intellectual disability, may seem to be a barrier to communication with a polyimpaired person. However, speech is not the only possible means of communication. As such, the possibilities are vast, even infinite.

Getting to know the polyimpaired person we’re working with is a vital exercise. While this may seem obvious, it requires patience and a keen sense of observation. This process involves understanding the polyimpaired person’s eating preferences, sleeping habits, hygiene routine, favourite activities and any motor or intellectual particularities that make him or her so special.a unique individual

What's so special about polyimpaired clients is the contrast between the simplicity and complexity of it all. The clientele sometimes comes with complex care, diagnoses that are difficult to obtain and understand, difficulties in communicating, but it's also so simple to love them completely.

Everyone has multiple needs, such as the need for survival, control, self-expression, pleasure, appreciation and self-esteem. The difference with polyimpairded people is that they are entirely dependent on others to meet these needs. It is therefore essential that the educational assistantunderstands the individual in order to achieve his or her personal growth and development. Creating a strong, lasting bond of trust with a polyimpaired person is fundamental to ensuring that this person succeeds in having his or her needs understood and, by the same token, in living out his or her dignity..

Philou's three-knowledge approach

The knowledge - understanding polyimpairment

Understanding the definition of polyimpairment and learning about the impact this reality has on the life of the polyimpaired person and their family is crucial to creating a bond. This understanding helps to deconstruct prejudices and adapt expectations.. Antoine Cavalié explains that: “People with polyimpairment, because of their extreme dependence, need the support of our action to live from day to day. More than that, it’s up to us to put into words what they’re experiencing, it’s up to us to say that such and such a person likes the swimming pool, that such and such a person likes going for a walk.”

The know-how - developing skills

The individual’s strengths, abilities and interests must be at the heart of the educator’s intervention. It’s also about mastering the nuts and bolts of your daily life, from their diet to their favorite activities, to find the tools you need to intervene.

A Philoupet or Philoupette just camouflages themselves in the daily lives of the kids, borrowing their daily lives from them. They make three or four friends for a day. They eat, wash, play, laugh, cry and share with their friends. Then, at the end of the day, you introduce your friend to someone else and say "see you tomorrow"!

People skills - adopting the right attitude

Being a Philoupet or Philoupette teaches us about the importance of caring for our personal well-being. Given that our role is to help young people achieve this well-being through our support, well, it's in our face! Do I care about myself? If I don' there any way I can begin this journey of learning how to love myself, step by step?

It is essential to respect the dignity of polyimpaired person by communicating directly with them and not through their carer. An intellectual disability does not prevent an individual from understanding those around him! You need to use language adapted to the person, such as shorter sentences or pictograms to communicate. There are many attitudes conducive to the creation of a bond: consideration for others, security, trust, availability, authenticity, empathy…

Self-fulfilling prophecy

The self-fulfilling prophecy, a key intervention concept, teaches us that polyimpaired person are very sensitive to the beliefs held by their educational assistant to their abilities. If an educator has low expectations of a person with polyimpairment, their approach to that person will be tainted by them, diminishing the development of the polyimpaired person and reinforcing the educator’s own misconceptions. The self-fulfilling prophecy reminds us of the importance of believing in a person’s capacity for development, beyond their difficulties. A caregiver who believes in the potential of a young person with polyimpairment will create the most favorable conditions for his or her development and success.

Every kid is different! No polyimpairment translates in exactly the same way from one polyimpairded person to another, which makes this clientele highly diverse and unique! Seeing a reaction from a kid, such as a smile or a laugh, is commonplace enough with the neurotypical clientele, but with our kids with polyimpairment, it's worth its weight in gold!


  • PhilouLAB – Campus Philou.
  • Gendreau, G. (2001). Jeunes en difficulté et intervention psychoéducative. Éditions Sciences et culture.
  • Cavalié, A. (2017). Chapitre 4. La rencontre avec la personne polyhandicapée : un regard philosophique. Dans : Philippe Camberlein éd., La personne polyhandicapée (pp. 131-141). Paris: Dunod.


Au nom des familles et de leurs enfants, au nom de de toute l’équipe qui travaille avec amour et ardeur au Centre Philou, nous vous remercions du fond du coeur de croire en nous, de nous donner le courage et l’énergie de continuer à grandir.


On behalf of the families and their children, on behalf of all the team members who work with love and ardor at Centre Philou, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for believing in us, for giving us the courage and energy to continue to grow.