Intellectual Disability Information

Submitted by Colby Curry, TERC

What is an intellectual disability? An intellectual disability is when there are limitations to a person’s ability to learn and function on a daily basis. These limitations may include difficulties in communicating, taking care of themselves and social skills.

Children with intellectual disabilities (sometimes called cognitive disabilities) may take longer to learn to speak, walk, and take care of their personal needs such as dressing or eating. They are likely to have trouble learning in school. They will learn, but it will take longer. There may be some things they may not be able to learn. (Center for parent information/resources 6/17).

What are some causes of an intellectual disability?
•Genetics – abnormal genes from the parents or errors when the genes combine. Ex. Downs Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome.
•Issues during pregnancy – the baby’s cells didn’t divide the right way, or the mother has drank alcohol, used drugs or maybe the mother contracted an infection such as rubella that may affect the unborn baby.
•Problems at birth – during delivery the baby may have lost a substantial amount of oxygen.
•Health issues – diseases (ex. whooping cough, measles), poor nutrition, and not adequate health care during pregnancy or exposure to lead/mercury.

Some signs may include:
•Sitting up, crawling or walking later than other babies
•Learning to talk or trouble speaking
•Not remembering things
•Difficulty in understanding social rules
•Trouble seeing the consequences of their actions
•Problem solving
•Thinking logically

It is estimated that seven to eight million people in the United States have an intellectual disability. Which means 1 in 10 families are affected and 425,000 children (3-21) receive special education services in public school. (Center for parent information/resources 6/17).

Having an intellectual disability isn’t contagious. It’s not a disease or mental illness such as depression. People who have intellectual disabilities can learn, work and function just as you or I. People with an intellectual disability may require a little extra instruction, patience, kindness and effort to become successful.

Please contact your health professionals if you have any questions or concerns. This article is for educational purposes.